SKOWHEGAN — For the second year in a row, the town treasurer has not been ready for the annual audit of town finances; and it is costing taxpayers money.

That is the message from selectmen as they seek to get Town Clerk and Treasurer Gail Pelotte more training on computer software related to the municipal program called Trio.

Selectman Newell Graf, the board’s vice chairman, said the 2008-09 audit cost the town about $4,000 more than it should have because of delays.

It “could have cost us double what it did, had (the auditor) not forgiven half of his bill,” Graf said. “We paid $16,000 in 2009, and it could have been $32,000 — that’s what the auditor told us — for us being unprepared.”

Town Manager John Doucette Jr. said an annual audit is required by state statute and the cost for a town the size of Skowhegan averages about $12,000 a year.

The most recent audit, for 2009-10, already has cost $2,600 more than it should have because of the extra work, selectmen said.

For her part, Pelotte acknowledged some shortcomings in her knowledge of the town’s software program, but said she will continue her training and be ready to run for re-election in June. She said she will do some additional training with the Bangor-based Trio programmer. Selectmen also want her to visit the Town Office in Madison to observe how the audit preparations are done there using the same software.

“There’s a lot of learning that goes into this job,” Pelotte said. “Just because you sit in the seat doesn’t mean you have obtained all the knowledge all at once or that you have the knowledge of everyone that sat there before you. It’s acquired over time.”

Selectwoman Joy Mase, the board’s chairman, said problems first showed up with turnover in the Town Office in 2008.

Town Clerk Rhonda Stark left, and Gail Merrick was appointed in the interim. Merrick stepped down and Trisha Austin took over, also on an interim basis, Mase said.

“Gail Pelotte ran and was elected in 2009, so you had three different town clerks and none of them with the experience that Rhonda Stark had,” Mase said. “Therefore things got a little bit behind. There really weren’t problems other than lack of experience and knowledge to get the job done. We felt as a board that we had given all the training and tools necessary for things to be done. We provided for each of them all the training they felt they needed.”

Doucette added that the town also was dealing with a 16-month audit because of the change in the fiscal year, also in 2008.

“They’re not caught up yet,” Doucette said. “This audit that we’re doing is the 2010 audit, so it’s been a year and three months that we’ve had the opportunity to get this ready.”

Graf agreed, saying the Board of Selectmen offered Pelotte help.

“Multiple times we asked, ‘Do you need help? Do you need training?’ We could see there was some faltering going on,” Graf said. “I think the last two years were her responsibility.”

Pelotte said she will continue her training, but added that it all takes time.

“You really have to learn how to do this job,” she said. “It’s on-the-job training. I’ve been here a lot of weekends and a lot of nights; I have had help.”

Items to be completed before the audit include the town’s list of fixed assets and the “trial balance” management program to prevent another delay.

Selectmen and Pelotte said they are working to reconcile the town’s checkbook with the Trio software rather than doing it on other software.

Pelotte, 51, was elected in 2009 to a three-year term that expires in June 2012. Her annual salary is $40,000.

Doucette said the town will not have another audit until everything is ready. Town employee Christine Almand, who is the finance director, will oversee a check list of needed tasks before the next audit, he said.

The 2010-11 audit is scheduled for February 2012. Pelotte said she will be ready.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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