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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Atkinson vendor reports offer a good look at town spending

From the Eagle Tribune;

Atkinson vendor reports offer a good look at town spending
By Eric Parry

ATKINSON — Three pages in the 75-page town report are devoted to the 615 vendors the town paid in 2008.

The Timberlane Regional School District only takes up one line on one page, but the town wrote a check to the district for $11.6 million, the lion's share of the $18.7 million the town paid out last year.

Payments were as small as $4 and as wide-ranging as a $29 subscription to Firehouse magazine and a $2,000 donation to the Cpl. John Lapham Fund.

Tax Collector Debra DeSimone said Atkinson collected $14.9 million in property taxes. From that amount, the county got a check for $879,153. The county tax rate is 5.7 percent of the town's $14.86 tax rate.

The town's second-largest expenditure was $1.7 million paid to Bauen Corp. for the construction of the new Kimball Library. That expenditure was approved by voters at the 2007 Town Meeting.

The town also paid $747,110 to TD Banknorth for interest on the library bond and the final payment on the fire station built in 2000, according to selectmen's Chairman Fred Childs.

Interest payments will be less expensive in future years, Childs said.

Other large payments were for trash collection and paving projects. Waste Management was paid $558,934 and Busby Construction got $351,926 for paving work.

Although trash collection ranks as the town's fifth-largest expenditure, Childs said the cost was actually $500 less than in 2007.

"That was the best deal we could get," Childs said.

But next year, the service will cost more. Last year was the first of a three-year contract with Waste Management and the cost in the second and third years will go up 3.5 percent each year, Childs said.

Busby Construction won bids to repave Walker Road and Washington Drive last spring and summer.

Of the 615 vendors on the list, 123 recipients were paid less than $100.

Just about every town official and employee is on the list, but mostly for mileage or travel reimbursement, Childs said. Those payments do not include employee salaries.

Planning Department administrative assistant Shirley Galvin received $148 for traveling to a job-related conference in Concord, Childs said.

Recreation Director Noriko Yoshida-Travers pays for department expenses on her personal credit card and then is reimbursed by the town for things like senior trips to Foxwoods.

"It looks like $32,000 in vendor fees, but she actually got nothing," Childs said.

The smallest expenditure made was for $4.04 for Ralph Pill, a local electrical supply business.

Childs said the town doesn't have an account with the business and the purchase was probably for a light bulb.


Anonymous said...

The town should get a credit card so people aren't using their personal cards for town business. If the town paid directly, we'd see who actually got the money. The current method prevents transparency and it isn't good to operate this way.

Anonymous said...

Having used a personal credit card for business expenses, I'd have to say your comment doesn't hold water. When you file an expense report, a copy of reciepts as well as the credit card statement needs to accompany the report. So long as the town uses a similar requirement, then it is very transparent.

Anonymous said...

Those are company credit cards with your name on them, I've used them too. In these cases, a complete expense report is filed or you don't get reimbursed. In this case, the public cannot see who the vendor is. My case is about transparency and it is owed to us and the town report should provide more detail or change the way the operate.

Anonymous said...

who got the air mile,s

Anonymous said...

No, it wasn't a company card with my name on it. It was my personal card. I've used both and know how both work with regards to expense reports. So long as the proper documentation is provided, the card ownership issue is irrelevant. If the documentation is lacking, then you have reason for concern as we all do. I haven't seen the expense reports and the accompanying (or lack thereof) documentation so I don't know if a lack of transparency exists. Now there may be an opportunity for the town to get some type of a reward card (cash back) and have their employees use that for purchases. I don't know what is available to towns, but it may be worth investigating.

LongTimeRes said...

The same practice of credit card reimbursment in corporations exist when using personal credit cards for expenses. The transparency is in the receipts, Just like Petty cash in the corporate world. Vendors are documented along with the receipt and an expense account assigned, and an approval. Any questions would get picked up by an audit.

Transparency is there and vendors are known, but i think it would be more convienent for people to have a town card to use and I like the idea off the points being used for the town.

Anonymous said...

I've used my personal credit card for town purchases. If you knew the bookkkeeper, you'd know that she won't accept a bill unless she has a receipt to go with it. No ifs, ands, or buts. We're lucky to have her....she doesn't put up with any garbage.

MAcciard said...

I first found out about this practice my second to last year on budget committee, and we asked the selectmen to look into getting a town credit card for these purchases, we were told that the town could not get a credit card, some one individual had to sign to be responsible for it.

The purchases are when recreation buys, say, Red Sox tickets. They may have to buy them in April, but they are not being sold until July. Noriko buys them on her personal credit card, and when the tickets are sold, the town re-imburses her.

adillon said...

Mark, I understand how that works, but what bothers me is that Noriko has a substantial sum on her credit card for what has to be more than 30 days - my credit card won't even give me that long - and unless she pays up, the interest builds up fast. There has to be a better way - all you money geniuses out there, how do we solve this?

Anonymous said...

For those of you that have actually attended an Atkinson Recreation Red Sox trip, correct me if I'm wrong. You stand in line at the Community Center in April and pay on that day. You then receive the tickets in the mail or available for pick-up at the Community Center at a later date. Thus, poor Noriko, isnt waiting until June or July for the cash.
I still think the town should get a credit card but I don't think anyones credit history is suffering.

Anonymous said...

Unless you give every town employee a town credit card, you will still be faced with having to reimburse someone at some point...and do you even want to think about giving every town employee their own town credit card?...don't try to fix whats not broken. Its working fine now move on to something that is broken.