Wallingford officials to continue talks on changes to reporting of town funds

Wallingford officials to continue talks on changes to reporting of town funds

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WALLINGFORD — The Town Council’s ordinance committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday, and on the agenda are two items about management of town funds.

The ordinance committee is made up of all members of the Town Council and meets to discuss new and amended town ordinances.

On Tuesday, councilors are slated to discuss and possibly advance to a vote of the full council amendments to the town code affecting management of the Capital and Non-recurring Expenditures Reserve Fund and the creation of a cap on the amount of money in the town’s general fund.

The capital and non-recurring fund holds money designated to pay for capital projects only — such as school and municipal building construction and improvements to roads and sewers — that are of a one-time nature.

The Town Council directs payments into the account, upon recommendation of the mayor, from a variety of sources, including the general fund, a tax levy, surplus cash from existing reserves, the proceeds of bonds sold to finance capital projects, state grants for school buildings, a percentage of energy sales from the Wallingford Electric Division, and interest and other monies earned from fund investment.

Several closed-out projects — some dating back to the 1960s — have leftover funds. The amount in active, unfinished projects, at least ones going back to 2010, is $2.6 million. The Town Charter defines a capital and non-recurring project as inactive if no money is spent in three consecutive years.

The amendment to the town code, which has been going through revisions since it was first proposed in April, would require Town Comptroller Jim Bowes to provide the Town Council with an annual report on the status of the  fund by Feb.1 of each fiscal year.

In the latest revision of the amendment, the report would include the audited, unassigned fund balance as of the most recent audit from the close of the prior fiscal year, which ends June 30, all  projects that have been completed, been closed-out, and are still incomplete since the prior fiscal year and the amount of unspent funds allocated to those projects, all lapsed projects since June 30 of the prior fiscal year, and the unassigned fund balance as of the date of the report.

Both Councilors Chris Shortell and Craig Fishbein initially asked Bowes, separately, for more information on the fund during the most recent budget process.

While working to eliminate a mill rate increase in the budget, Shortell inquired about the closed-out capital projects and whether the leftover money can be reallocated for other capital projects. The amount of leftover funds from projects currently is not listed on any report given to councilors nor in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

During the Town Council’s April 30 meeting,  Bowes said he believed the Town Council could move the money to a new line item without the approval of the mayor. Funds cannot be taken out of the fund once they are there, as per the Town Charter.

The council asked Town Corporation Counsel Janis M. Small to draft a potential ordinance requiring this reporting, which it reviewed at the ordinance committee meeting Sept. 3.

The full council reviewed Small’s proposed ordinance language during its Nov. 10 regular meeting, but ultimately the motion was withdrawn, sending it back to the ordinance committee.

Cap on general fund

The other item about management of town funds for Tuesday’s meeting is a discussion on considering a general fund cap.

Councilor Jason Zandri initiated the discussion, suggesting the cap at 15 percent of the total budget. The current budget is $174.2 million, so the cap would be roughly $26.1 million.

If the majority of councilors want to move forward with it, Small would craft ordinance language reflecting the change.

The remote meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Instructions on how to log in are on the meeting agenda, posted at www.wallingford.ct.us.

LTakores@record-journal.com203-317-2212Twitter: @LCTakores

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