Council President John A. Michitson, left, reacts to Councilor Colin F. LePage’s discovery of $600,000 in unused money in an obscure city spending account.
A mislabeled spending account in City Hall could be good news for taxpayers.
While preparing for upcoming budget deliberations, Councilor Colin F. LePage said he flagged an obscure account with $600,000 inside. The account was originally intended to hold license fees held in escrow to be paid to the Commonwealth, but those amounts were already paid, LePage told councilors last night.
“My understanding is that these funds are available and can be used for any purpose. Just some examples of what these funds may be used for, include, but are not limited to, increasing our stabilization (rainy day) account, further reducing property tax bills, hiring additional police officers, etc.,” LePage said.
Last year, LePage also found an unused account holding $100,000 and attempted to have the money earmarked for hiring a second middle school health instructor to help fight substance abuse among school students. Although the city council has no authority over the school department, Superintendent James F. Scully agreed to hire the additional teacher with other money from the school budget. Last year’s $100,000 find was added to the city’s rainy day fund.
LePage’s colleagues praised him for his research. Council Vice President Melinda E. Barrett called LePage “a forensic accountant on the side.”
“You dig around and find things,” Barrett said.
Councilor William J. Macek said the money should be used to reduce the usual increases in property tax bills. Every year, he explained, the city taxes “within a cat’s whisker” of Proposition 2 ½ limits.
“Let’s give taxpayers a break this year,” Macek said.
Councilor Andy Vargas used LePage’s find to lobby for the city’s purchase on an online service, ClearGov.com, to better track spending accounts.
Councilors expect to begin formal budget deliberations within the next few weeks. The budget dictates spending and taxes for the year beginning July 1.