CANTON — The Town Council on Tuesday night approved an agreement with the town’s accounting firm to “add an extra layer of security” to bookkeeping in the clerk’s office.
Town Clerk Karin S. Blackburn proposed a streamlining effort to better track and account for the millions of dollars in property tax payments, license payments and other municipal fees funneled annually by the public through the clerk’s office.
Councilors unanimously authorized the clerk’s office to contract with Gray & Gray and Associates to set up QuickBooks, an accounting software program that organizes several elements of transaction and receipt data in one digital place.
Incoming money from tax payments, marriage licenses, dog licenses, hunting and fishing licenses, building permits and certified copies of records is now housed in three separate software systems and deposited into three different bank accounts, which “makes recordkeeping very time consuming and leaves room for error,” Mrs. Blackburn said.
Though Mrs. Blackburn will continue managing transactions in house, she said, the additional monthly Gray & Gray review and QuickBooks file will increase transparency and accountability, no matter a clerk’s background or familiarity with financial management.
Mrs. Blackburn, who was appointed interim clerk in December through the end of this year, is not running for the four-year elected position in November. She said she wants to continue to improve clerk’s office standards until her appointment ends.
“A proper reconciliation should include proof that the debits and credits have been checked for accuracy,” she said. “Looking back, this wasn’t being done correctly.”
Having a third-party, regular review “certainly helps” with the town’s mandated internal audit responsibilities, town attorney Eric J. Gustafson said.
“It’s just good practice,” he added.
The agreement designates $3,600 — $300 a month — for the 2020 records to be reviewed, and $600 a month to catch up on monthly finances from 2021. Moving forward, real time monthly reviews will be $600. The cost is being covered by the town clerk’s office budget.
John J. Gray Jr., of Gray & Gray, said he anticipates being caught up by the end of September. Starting in October, he said, Town Council can expect a monthly report detailing incoming and outgoing clerk’s office money, similar to reports prepared monthly for the supervisors’s office.
The next Town Council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 12. Canton meetings are being held in person at the municipal building, 60 Main St., and streamed live on Zoom. Zoom links and agendas are posted to cantonny.gov.