East New Market gets an ‘A minus’ in town’s audit

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EAST NEW MARKET — At the Nov. 10 meeting of the East New Market commission independent auditor George Diehl presented results of the town’s FY2014 audit. According to Mr. Diehl the results were gratifying. He noted, that “Each fund is doing fine. A few years ago you couldn’t pay bills or council salaries.” He said the town has made much progress and he grades its finances and financial management as an “A minus.”

General Fund Revenues exceeded last year by $1,031 with most items “fairly close to the budget.” If grant money is removed the income was about $6,000 less than the previous year because of decreased personal property taxes and increased interest rates.

Most expense categories in the General Fund came in under budget for the year. The General Government category was about $18,000 under the budget. Public works was close to last year at about $5,000 under budget. Actual expenses were $340,350.

The General Fund covered all expenses, paid $9,500 for Friendship Park playground equipment not received in grants, and paid principal on a note. The General Fund “held its ground and gained $4,235.”

A transfer of $16,387 to the School Apartments Fund helped with the school’s cash flow which decreased the General Fund balance but according to Mr. Diehl, “it did great. The General Fund did what it was supposed to do.”
Revenue for the Highway Fund was slightly over budget and about $400 above last year.

The Highway Fund “covered itself this year and the fund balance went up by $397.

Revenues for the Water/Sewer Fund were down about $17,000 compared to last year. Mr. Diehl noted “The number is a little off because about $9,000 of abatements lowered the income this year. Sales were down about $7 or $8,000. Expenses compared to last year were very close and “came in under budget on most things,” the auditor said.

Water/Sewer operating revenues were $251,060 and total operating expenses were $373,522. After interest income and payments were included, principal payments of $38,650 removed, and depreciation added back, the Water/Sewer Fund gained $2,558 and continues to be self-sufficient. Mr. Diehl said the fund “Paid all its bills, paid the principal on loans and did what it was supposed to do.”

The Twin Cities Wastewater Treatment Plant Fund income rose a little but so did expenses. They are equal except for some grant money. Expenses went up about $8,000 for the year. Chemicals, wages, repairs and maintenance went up to keep old equipment going. A grant of $49,041 for the new plant was used and a second grant for $67,000 was received. Costs were about $40,000 over last year. “This changed by about $544 more of expenses on our side because insurance rose by $1,088 after an insurance audit that doubled costs for FY2014.”

Rentals in the School Apartment Fund were up by $3,000 with expenses about $4,000 more than last year. To help with cash flow funds were transferred from the General Fund.

Mayor Caroline Cline said, “I think the profile for this coming year is going to be more rosy than it has before because occupancy is full.”

Commissioner David Tolley noted that the town will pay off $13,000 remaining debt which has carried a high interest rate of 5 percent. Seven years ago when Mr. Tolley was elected to the commission the grade from the auditor was a D. “We’ve gone from a D to an A-. We’re looking out for the taxpayers and that’s the way it should be.”

State Delegate Chris Adams attended the meeting to listen to local officials and help in any way he can. He said during his campaign he knocked on 6,000 doors. After his election to the state General Assembly he is meeting with leadership in district 37B to ensure that legislative decisions are driven from the local level rather than in Annapolis. He cited “Challenges with economic development throughout the shore. It is hard to do business in Maryland and especially hard on the Eastern Shore.”

Mayor Cline described three loans from the 1980s for the wastewater treatment plant. “The concern is that the largest outstanding loan, for $66,000, reads ‘in perpetuity’ and we hope to somehow get that language changed because it’s kind of scary.” Delegate Adams promised to make inquiries about the wording in the contract.

The Walking Trail construction project is proceeding and the mayor hopes for approval from the appropriate state agencies within one to two months. She noted progress with renovations to the train station as well. An architectural historian is on board as required by the Maryland Historical Trust. He will do an architectural survey and then help the town find a contractor to move forward with the project.

Zoning and Code Inspector Nancy Jackson reported that two of five re-inspections were abated and four notices of violations, sent in October, are scheduled for re-inspection in November.

The official Christmas tree lighting ceremony is set for Dec. 11 at 6 pm. It will feature Santa Claus, an Elf, candy, and a school choir. The annual decorating contest is slated for Dec. 18 at dusk so those who are competing are asked to turn on their lights that evening.

Cindy Merrick and Mary Dennard-Turner and resident Wayne Tanton are planning Christmas celebration activities that promise to appeal to residents county-wide.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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