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Off budget expenditures weaken the city's financial controls

To The Daily Sun,

In Fiscal Year 2015-16, two resolutions regarding state and federal DOJ Drug Forfeiture Fund were listed on Laconia's City Council action agenda. Ultimately, these resolutions were tabled. Yet, in spite of pending Superior Court final order, the council reintroduces the same two resolutions.

What was and is problematic is neither is unanticipated new revenues in terms of a specific Drug Forfeiture Fund Share application or award. Moreover, the offsetting revenue is not listed in the municipal budget, because it's off-budget. The two resolutions give the impression that two new Drug Forfeiture Fund shares were applied for in accordance with state and federal guidelines and awarded for these specific amounts, none of which are documented.

It's been said that off-budget expenditures weaken a government's financial control, unable to control the trend in government spending, eroding transparency. It is logical to suppose that they escape budget controls.

In addressing the problem of off-budget expenditures, one should focus on the factors that facilitate or impede budget control, not on the accounting issue alone. The real spending decisions are made outside of the budget framework and circumvent the majority vote of the council to appropriate funds for every line-item purpose in the annual budget, which the city manager, chief administrator supervises the expenditure of those funds.

The truth is that money for the new Police Department individual line items exists but is not found in the budgets — current budget or proposed annual budget. The existing money cannot be new or unexpected revenue. The two special bank accounts have a combined total of $38,743.72.

Accordingly, the new surveillance equipment and the other unknown secret item should be a simple transfer request seeking approval of the council to establish the new line items offset by existing revenues. In effect, off-budget accounts are being used as additional contingency accounts which are not allowed.

What is problematic is that the sum of $38,743.72 is not included in the revenue side of the balance budget and therefore out of the preview of the council or public. Also, it is unknown who the administrator or trustee of these funds is or are. What is clear is that the money according to the City Charter states that all funds received on behalf of the city shall be delivered to the city clerk who shall record the deposit and forward the money to the treasurer. Why it is not part of the general fund, listed as a carry-forward? One of the many questions to be answered is how does the total revenues absent the $38,743.72 impact the tax cap?

The city manager, chief administrative officer will summarily oversee all supplemental line item as with all the individual line items that make up the annual grand total appropriation for the current fiscal year. Therefore, no special action by the council is required regarding any special "accept" and "expend" additional authority.

Fraud and abuse have become widespread concerns in many counties and municipalities. The controls that once guarded against the misuse of public funds seem incapable of restoring trust to public expenditure. The Laconia City Manager placed two resolutions on the council's agenda regarding Drug Forfeiture Fund Share — one regarding the state's Department of Justice and another for Federal DOJ. Both resolutions 2015-22 and 2015-23 are to authorize the city manager to "accept" and "expend" UNANTICIPATED REVENUE in the amount of $8,000 and $9,891.32 which in fact is inaccurate, as these funds reside in off-budget accounts. The offsetting moneys, to pay for two new purposes (line items in the Police Department budget), have existed for years, off budget, in two bank accounts having a balance of $28,851.40, of which $8,000 is intended to encumber in accordance with Resolution 2015-22, the purpose purchasing of surveillance equipment.

Resolution 2015-23 encumbers $9,891.32 from existing bank account having a balance of $9,892.32 to purchase unknown secret item or items both have been approved by the City Council simply because it's free money, not taxpayer dollars.

The documents associated with these public noticed resolutions as requested for review, under the Right-to-Know, were not provided and could not be because they do not exist. The off-budget funds being used for equipment and other unknown purpose for the most part have existed since 2009 and only made public as City's Exhibit #1, 139 pages of documents.

Thomas A. Tardif
Laconia

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I meant no harm in walking neighborhood collecting recyclables

To The Daily Sun,

I am writing this letter to apologize for unintentionally offending one of my neighbors on Grant Street here in Laconia. I certainly did not want to cause any alarm or have you think I was trying to perform any criminal act or do anything without permission. I want to assure you that I am not a bum or a criminal.

It is too bad that we did not have a chance to converse, as I would have explained the following to you.

For the past two years I have walked around a couple of the streets in my neighborhood, collecting recyclables every other Friday. It takes me about 20 to 30 minutes, as that is about all I can handle physically. I never go through anyone's trash, only their recyclables. I have been collecting Box Tops for Education, Coca-Cola points for veterans and homeless people and Kellogg's points for books for education, a program for planting trees in areas of the world and feeding children around the nation.

During this time I thought that I had talked personally to the owners of each recycle bin that I look through. I know most of the residents of the street as my fiancée and I walk our two Corgi's around the neighborhood practically every day for the past four years. Several neighbors even saved their box tops, points and codes for me and would give me a stack from time to time when they would see me.

I was collecting points and codes for several reasons. First, it makes me feel good that I can contribute to my community and country in some small way. Second, it helps me feel as though I am pulling my weight (again in a small way) and being productive. Almost three years ago I incurred several injuries that are permanent. I also started having seizures shortly after and now have adult on-set epilepsy with some early aging.

Obviously, this has been life-altering for me. I am unable to work, drive or get through many daily activities that healthy people take for granted. I have no income. I have had to sell my vehicle and am just hanging on to my home.

However, this one little act of kindness gave me a feeling of worth. It made me feel as if I was still fighting the good fight. I was always a giver and have contributed towards many good efforts in the past.

That's why I was surprised when the police stopped me during my routine. I would again like to say thank you to the officer who responded to a call in regards to my "suspicious activity." He was professional and had a positive approach to the matter and his backup remained neutral. I was informed that what I was doing was illegal and that I could only collect recycles from public collection areas, unless I had permission from the property owners.

The officer also said some of the not-good people are going through trash to obtain prescription pill bottle information and I applaud them for following up on that. I actually see many pill bottles in the recycle with people's names and all other information still on the bottle. It is hard to believe people still throw them away like that. Not to mention, I have witnessed illegal activity in this neighborhood much more serious than my matter.

Also, we seem to be one of the few that pick up after their dogs.

Hopefully, those crimes will be addressed with a similar prompt approach.

In conclusion, after much reflection, I have decided to stop collecting recyclables starting immediately. Again, I would like to say I am sorry for any misunderstanding. You will not have to worry about me doing that good deed anymore.

Scott Kipreotis

Laconia

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