Here’s a new excuse for an accounting mistake. It was announced this week at Radnor’s Board of Commissioner’s Meeting that the township lost $600K . . . rather they never actually had it. Apparently, some of the columns on the Excel accounting sheets are shaded too darkly to accurately read so the wrong numbers may have been picked up. When the township’s commissioners asked Alison Rudolf, Radnor’s interim finance director to explain why the actual and working budget numbers are different, her explanation begins with maybe there was an ‘absence of some zeros’! I couldn’t make this up — and to explain sloppy accounting with the excuse that the Excel spreadsheet’s shading was too dark!
Apparently, Commissioner John Fisher, who sits on the township’s finance and audit committee, complained in the past that the shading on the Excel spreadsheet was too dark . . . he told the residents at the commissioner’s meeting that he would lighten his own copy before printing so that it was readable. Even after Commissioner Fisher alerted the finance department of the situation, the shading problem was ignored. Lightening up the use of shading in a document does not take an advanced degree in computer science . . . and now this is the finance director’s excuse for the $600K accounting error!
The inability of the finance department to reconcile the books would have been a stunning revelation by itself; but for Radnor’s Township Manager and Finance Director to offer this kind of excuse is truly remarkable! Ms. Rudolf explained that the township uses two different kinds of accounting systems, one for budgeting and the other for everything else. The budget system uses Excel. The Excel spreadsheets were so darkly shaded that they were not readable, so Ms. Rudolf states it was difficult to read some of the entries! Are the residents to believe that the finance department then just guessed what the numbers were? Does this explain Ms. Rudolf’s assertion that perhaps some zeros just went missing?
Another problem with Radnor’s 2010 budget — the budget was based on a significant transfer of revenues from the Sewer Fund. (do you remember Tredyffrin’s Sewer Fund discussion from December?) It now looks as if the Radnor’s Board of Commissioners spent money from the Sewer Fund that was not there. A reduction in usage due to conservation efforts and the economic downturn meant another large shortfall in anticipated revenues.
One bright spot for Radnor’s residents is that this recent budget problem is forcing the commissioners and the township’s finance department to focus on the revenues and expenditures of their 2010 budget. I would also guess this situation will encourage 2011 budget discussions in Radnor Township earlier rather than later. And just remember, Radnor Township has an Interim Finance Director and this $600K error occurred . . . what does that say for Tredyffrin Township? We have not had a Finance Director since March. Maybe a status report on where the township stands with getting this position filled would be a good idea!