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Accountants to build Cortland’s budget

Firm hired after town’s treasurer relieved of duties

Published: Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

CORTLAND – An independent accounting firm has made sure all Cortland’s bills are paid and will build the town’s next budget after town leaders ousted the appointed treasurer.

Cortland Town Mayor Russ Stokes relieved former Treasurer Mark Davenport of his duties Jan. 31 after the accounting firm, Lauterbach and Amen LLP, issued a report showing Cortland had multiple past due invoices and payments. Trustees approved the removal during their meeting Monday, and the town does not currently have any outstanding payments or bills, Stokes said.

“As soon as we recognized the problem, we worked with staff to make sure past due payments were brought up to financial speed,” Stokes said. “I’m confident everything’s fine.”

Stokes hired the firm Jan. 1 to review of the treasurer’s office. The town is paying Lauterbach and Amen LLP $100 an hour to finish the review and to perform Cortland’s treasurer duties themselves. So far, Cortland has paid the firm $2,300 for work in January, said Cheryl Aldis, Cortland town clerk.

Davenport’s salary was roughly $49,000 in the current fiscal year, which ends April 30, Stokes said. Previous Mayor Robert Seyller appointed Davenport, with trustees’ approval, in June 2012, after seven people applied for the job.

Cortland Trustee Chuck Lanning said he fully supports the mayor’s decision.

“In my opinion, it’s a better way to go,” Lanning said. “It’s not that much more money [to pay the firm] than what we were paying the treasurer.”

Under Davenport’s watch, the town government had several unpaid bills from vendors including ComEd, which had said it would shut off service if payments were not made, according to a review of the treasurer or budget officer report.

The report also said Cortland received notices from the Illinois Department of Employment Security for outstanding amounts due for unemployment payouts; a notice from DeKalb County that the budget or estimated revenues and certification of budget or appropriation had not been filed by Jan. 13; and one of the town’s insurance policies, brokered by Assurance, expired Jan. 1.

Stokes said Lauterbach and Amen LLP will help put together next year’s budget, a job function normally done by the treasurer. Trustees need to approve the budget before May 1. Town leaders plan to have about $2.4 million on hand April 30, after spending $4.7 million and bringing in $3 million in the current fiscal year, according to the budget.

Cortland Trustee Ben Haier said the mayor caught the problem before it was too late. Now, he’s open to either outsourcing the treasurer position or appointing a full-time employee.

“If we choose to have an appointed employee, I think having both at the same time for a while would be a good idea, just so the same problem doesn’t happen again,” Haier said.

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