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Town may issue credit cards to department heads

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KENT—Town Treasurer Barbara Herbst told the Board of Finance Feb. 21 that there are a number of bank cards available to the town that would allow department heads to expend funds without dipping into their own pockets. She said the cards would all come with restrictions to prevent their use for improper purchases.

She is researching plans used in other towns to craft a policy for Kent that would be acceptable. 

Only one person in each department would be authorized to use the cards. “The cards would be issued in one individual’s name and they would be responsible,” she reported. The cards would only be allotted to departments that need them.

“This is not to supplement the regular process for getting bills paid,” she said. “It would alleviate people from having to pay for things out of pocket.”

At present, personnel may have to pay for small purchases themselves and then be reimbursed by the town. “The reimbursements haven’t been for hundreds of dollars,” she said. “They are for $5 or $50 or something along that line.”

She added that petty cash is not a viable option for reimbursement because employees forget to bring in the receipts. 

Issuing cards to department heads was an early suggestion of Selectmen Lynn Mellis Worthington after she was elected in November.

Herbst reported that the town audit is behind schedule because the town “had to scramble to get an auditor after the previous one resigned.”

“It’s been a lot of work to reconcile the reports,” she said. 

She said her work has been further complicated by the use of “virtual currency” by town departments. “More departments are accepting credit card [payments]. Each department chooses a banker based on what is sympatico to what they use, so I am getting revenue from three different credit card merchants. That is adding a little work.”

Turning to the capital plan, she said some departments have been rethinking funds that were designated in the past. Line items in the plan can be altered at the request of the stakeholder—the agency requesting the funding—with the approval of the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and the voters. 

Finance member Jason Wright said he believed the different departments should come up with narratives about the use of the unexpended funds. “Do we need to ask the Board of Selectmen to bring us a report from the department heads with a focus on older items that are not expended?” he asked.

Member Casey Cogut said, “We could be more forceful and say we would take it back. It was a big issue at the town meeting. I think people would want action.”

Wright said the commissions need to show they are on top of the issue. “We need enough data from the commissions to determine if we need a redo,” he commented.

Kathryn Boughton
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