Guest columnist Nilda Cohen: Southampton's precarious financial situation

Posted: 12/12/2021 10:45:56 AM Modified: 12/12/2021 10:45:19 The Southampton Select board voted in favor of the December 14 special...



Posted: 12/12/2021 10:45:56 AM

Modified: 12/12/2021 10:45:19

The Southampton Select board voted in favor of the December 14 special meeting against the advice of the Southampton Board of Health.

We have had around 60 new cases of COVID in our city in recent weeks. There has been a slight increase in some surrounding communities. Organizing an indoor meeting in a place where there have been cases is not the best decision at the moment.

The city moderator said at the regular board meeting on December 7 that he heard people say they would not attend. Despite their immunization status, they have been cautious to date and continue to take steps to stay safe.

Our elected officials as well as the municipal administrator mismanaged the financial functioning of the municipality. They are in a difficult position. They’re trying to remedy their missteps with this special town reunion. Having a meeting in December isn’t the best time. Achieving good representation of participating voters is a big unknown. I believe their main goal is to serve their individual agenda.

For over a year, we’ve been told that the lack of financial information is due to COVID, coupled with not having an accountant or an accounting department in place.

City leaders are slow to make the accounting function a priority. A person was recruited in a temporary employment agency. Although qualified, she was not authorized to perform all the tasks required or necessary to provide financial information.

The city administrator spent a deficit when (only allowed) in the case of snow and ice. The budget voted at the annual communal assembly was not managed in accordance with the people’s vote. We haven’t closed the books for 2021. We haven’t completed the 2020 audit. We haven’t got a (significant) bond rating to borrow. We did not have the cash certified. We couldn’t fix the tax rate.

These are all important tasks required to show that we are managing our finances in accordance with the requirements of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and other unfulfilled financial institutions. Internal monthly financial reports are incomplete or incorrect. In some incidents, we spend money not covered by funds available on a budget line.

We are applying for grants, which require matching funds from the city. These grants will also use resources already taxed, such as the police, roads and firefighters. When do we align our decisions with sound financial planning and stability?

I encourage the residents of Southampton to express their views on all of these matters. Ask questions, ask for documentation, do research. I know it takes time, I know it is frustrating. Watch some of the recorded board meetings on the city’s website.

Do not wait until we are in a deeper financial hole before reacting or bringing in the state.

Nilda Cohen lives in Southampton.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Guest columnist Nilda Cohen: Southampton's precarious financial situation
Guest columnist Nilda Cohen: Southampton's precarious financial situation
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