ANSON — The amount of money missing from the Anson Town Office continues to balloon, according to a recent letter from an auditor revealing that more than $430,000 in excise tax money has disappeared over the last four years.

A letter sent to the town on July 22 from accountants Purdy Powers & Co. cites a shortfall of $110,756 between the amount of excise tax collected in 2011 and the amount deposited in the town’s checking account that year.

The money is in addition to an earlier report from the auditors that found a total of $327,956 missing from 2012 through September 2014. That means that the total amount of money missing over the last four years is $438,712, according to Purdy Powers.

“I was surprised it would be that much,” Arnold Luce, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said Tuesday. “I don’t know why. There’s no reason to think there wouldn’t be more missing. As far as we’ve gone back, it all seems to be about the same — about one-third of the excise tax collected each year (has been missing), according to the auditor.”

Selectmen gave a copy of the auditor’s letter to longtime Tax Collector Claudia Viles but have not discussed it further with her, Luce said. Viles, who is still working at the Town Office, didn’t respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

There was little discussion from board members about the additional missing money at a meeting Tuesday night, though some residents had questions.

“Why was this never picked up on in an audit before?” resident Mark Campbell asked.

“I’ve asked that before and I haven’t gotten a great answer,” Luce said, adding that the amount of money reported in the accounting system had always matched the amount deposited in the bank, according to auditors. However, the amount of money that was collected on transactions wasn’t tallied properly, so the total amount recorded in the system — the amount that was to be deposited — wasn’t accurate.

“They didn’t look at every single little piece of paper,” Luce said.

“I hate to point fingers, but that’s a lot of money,” Campbell said.

With a new accounting system in place that requires daily deposits of transactions, Luce said he believes the problem is no longer persisting, although the town is considering having the auditors re-examine additional years before 2011.

Viles, the only person who processes excise tax payments, has been in office for 42 years.

The town has no excise tax records for the year 2010, but it would be able to get them from the state for a fee, Town Administrative Assistant Tammy Murray said. She said the year 2010 is missing, and she was unsure what the cost would be to get the copies from the state. It is also something the Office of the Maine Attorney General might do as part of its investigation into the case, she said.

So far the town has recovered $250,000 after filing a loss claim with an insurance company. The town policy is limited to a $250,000 reimbursement, but it’s possible that more money could be recovered if a criminal investigation is completed, Luce and Murray said.

It is costing the town about $7,000 to have each year’s worth of records re-examined.

“I think the statute of limitations is six years, so it may be worth it to keep going back,” Luce said.

Motor vehicle excise tax is a tax collected locally on new motor vehicle registrations. Aside from a small percentage of the tax that covers state fees, most of the tax remains in the town in which it is collected and is often used for things such as road repairs and capital projects.

The shortfall in excise tax means that town officials have had to raise additional tax dollars to fund the town budget, Luce said Tuesday. He estimated the shortfall has cost taxpayers about $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value each year over the last four years.

“If we had that money to work with, taxes would be lower,” he said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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