The town of Register has hired a consultant to help unravel what some of the town’s council members say is a bookkeeping nightmare.
Despite what records indicate, the town is not over $93,000 in debt, said councilman Kevin Boyd.
A Profit and Loss statement for fiscal year 2014 shows the town is $93,579 in debt, but that is not accurate, he said.
Bookkeeping flaws “have made a mess” and the town has hired a consultant from the Georgia Municipal Association to help decipher the incorrect records, he said.
Confusion about “who did what” came about when the town hired a police clerk, Sandy Williams, the wife of Mayor John Williams, according to Boyd. Rhonda Deloach is the town’s clerk.
“The Profit and Loss (document) is all but worthless. It was not set up correctly, and has not been correctly monitored since then,” he said.
Council member Brittany Brannen is now overseeing the books, and is working with the GMA consultant to get things back in shape, he said. The consultant visited with town officials Monday.
“There is no specific plan yet,” but the town is considering seeking the aid of an accounting firm from Toombs County that specializes in working with GMA guidelines, he said.
Mayor Pro-Tem Barbara Rushing said when the town hired Ms. Williams as police clerk, there was some miscommunication regarding duties.’
“We used to have one clerk,” she said. But when the new police clerk position came into play, “one thought the other was supposed to” handle certain responsibilities, “and it got behind. It wasn’t something we did deliberately. It was a lack of communication. It won’t happen again.”
Boyd said much of the perceived debt has already been paid, including $28,000 to the Internal Revenue Service and $36,000 to the state of Georgia for unpaid “add-ons” (state fees attached to ticket fines) that were not paid.
Taxes were paid, but not in entirety, and much of the IRS debt was due to late fees and penalties, he said. The state fees were add-on fees “that were collected and never passed on. We do not owe anybody $93,000.”
As mistakes in bookkeeping were made, the incorrect data had a snowball effect, he said. “Mistakes have existed that multiply every time that Profit and Loss (document) is used.”
Register is learning from its mistakes, Rushing said. “This is literally shoddy bookkeeping. We were told ‘this is how we’ve always done it,’ but the council has taken on an aggressive approach” in order to correct the problem, she said.
The Profit and Loss document holds some questionable items, including a listing of a deficit in the “police seizure fund” of $10,704 and “uncategorized expenses” of $20,370.
Neither Boyd nor Rushing could readily explain the “uncategorized expenses” or why the police seizure fund showed an expense instead of an asset. Police seizures are when cars or other items are seized during drug raids or other crimes, and are usually sold for profit, Boyd said.
As for the uncategorized expenses, “much of that comes from a tax issue (that existed) before (former mayor James) Oates was mayor,” Rushing said. “Unemployment taxes, maybe – records show taxes were paid, but were not fully reported taxes.”
As for the unpaid state add-on fees, “all I can offer on that is a theory,” she said. “A clerical error from the Register clerk of court.”
Register’s bookkeeping currently consists of “a lot of scattered accounts,” she said. ”Our bookkeeping is a mess, and we’re solving problems as we see them” with the aid of the GMA consultant.
Despite rumblings that Register is considering dissolving and giving up its township, there are no plans to do so, she said. Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch said he had not been notified of any such consideration, and Boyd echoed Rushing’s adamant statement that the town will remain incorporated.
The Profit and Loss document, which Boyd maintains is not credible, lists the town’s general operating income for 2014 as $38, 959 and total general operating expenses as 33,370
It lists its public safety income as $273,530 with police payroll expenses as listed as $128,789 (Chief Tom Kile’s income is $41,496; a total of other officers’ income is listed as $51,811, and the police clerk’s salary is $7,681.)
Other major expenses listed are police advertising and utilities, $6,039; vehicle expenses, $25,851; state add-ons,$74,481; inmate housing, $6,960; police training and travel, $4,921; case expenses, $15,453; miscellaneous, $2,398 and other, $1,004.
Register Mayor John Williams did not return several calls made to his city-funded cell phone or messages left at the Register City Hall, seeking comment on the town’s financial status.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.