When Hamilton Consulting Group officials took a look at the books of the Havre city government, they found it was almost all good, save two issues.
Hamilton employees shared with City Council at its meeting Monday night these two issues — too little water revenue and Clerk Doug Kaercher’s lack of training in his first year.
One problem the council is already working on and the other doesn’t really need correction, Kaercher said.
The first issue has been raised for three years now. When the city agreed to borrow money to upgrade the water plant years ago, it agreed to always take in 125 percent of the funds needed to run the facility. With rising costs, and water rates frozen for the past several years, the city is no longer receiving as much money as they need to.
Before this finding was presented this year, the council had already agreed last month to meet before the March 4 council meeting, at 6:30 and discuss raising the water rates to get back into compliance.
The other issue was that Kaercher, having started his first year as finance director in the middle of last year, had not received the training necessary to compile all of the annual financial statement documents necessary for the city’s audit. So employees from Hamilton had to help him, or else they would have had to pay a third party who had the training to come in and do it.
Kaercher said that it would probably take several years for him to be fully trained to do the preparation on his own and in the meantime it is “much cheaper to have them help me with it and take the finding than to hire someone. The finding is really immaterial, but they had to publicize it. ”
Kaercher covers day-to-day city changes
After the financial reviewers from Hamilton Consulting Group gave their stamp of approval on the raw numbers of the Havre city government’s 2012 finances, City Clerk Doug Kaercher gave an update on the more day-to-day changes to city business.
After Kaercher became finance director in May, he made a few changes to how the city collects money, mostly for water and sewer bills, that, as he explained to City Council Monday, have already shown results.
The biggest change was the acceptance of credit card payments, which Kaercher said have taken in $15,000 worth of bills since July.
The city also started accepting direct debiting from accounts last year. So far 98 residents have signed up, and Kaercher said more sign up every day.
Kaercher also made changes to how the city handles late payments and water shut-offs, which have cut late bills by 25 percent and cut shut-offs by half.
The city also added a new dropbox on the north side of the building.
Council member Janet Trethewey asked about other more modern techniques that could be used, but Kaercher said that updating much more would require a dedicated information technology employee.
“We just don’t have the resources to do all that, ” Kaercher said.