A new financial expert consulting deal was approved by the City Council Thursday and is already paying dividends, officials said.
Tracey Rash, who is with Government Finance Solutions, Harrisburg, will work on behalf of the city for the next 120 days or when her services reach an $85,000 cap.
In addition to finding that the city owed the Internal Revenue Service $160,000 in civil penalties for unreturned 2017 tax documents, Rash told the finance committee and council that he has recovered $15,000 in unclaimed money he had the state and expects to receive another $40. due to the city
He also determined that financial reports generated by the city’s system have not been reconciled since 2019. He also did not have bank accounts and was trying to reconcile them, but until they are numbers may not be accurate, he warned.
He continues to meet with department heads and is working on corrective actions regarding Federal Emergency Management Agency grants for smoke alarms and a US Department of Justice grant for protective equipment during the COVID pandemic.
In late June, Joseph Pawlak, interim CFO, was fired.
Rash was brought on board because of his experience, including 32 years of audit services.
His job remains to help get the city’s finances in order and then let someone else come in to take it from there, Mayor Derek Slaughter told the finance committee this week.
Councilwoman Liz Miele said she was glad to see this reconciliation of accounts and accurate numbers as the city prepares for its budget discussion in November.
Part of Rash’s job has been working with the new River Valley Transit Authority, and as the city continues to separate finances to ensure the authority’s money is accurate.
His bill for one month was $13,382.
As for the Fire Bureau, there are several federal grants that are more than a year behind to report.
“I was working with the boss to gather the information to be able to report on these federal grants,” Rash said.
“Regarding this, I spoke to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is one of your grantees, and when I got on the phone with them, they told me that they had chosen you for a follow-up, so FEMA came out and checks . . . and there was no response from the city, so these things are still pending.” she said
There are limited bank reconciliations made since December 31, 2019, “So the information in your system is not accurate, so I gave them historical data, but it’s only as good as what’s in that system right now, so we’re going to work on getting the budgets together, and I’ve also attended the fire department pension board meeting,” Rash said.
On the financial side, Rash presented quarterly taxes for the second quarter, “and digging through piles of paper left behind in the finance department, I found an Internal Revenue Service notice for the fourth quarter of 2021,” she said
“When I contacted the IRS, I was told that you really have three outstanding issues: the biggest is that you have a notice from 2017 that you failed to file certain documents with the IRS, and that you have been sent several notices, none of which were he responded and that you are now in the civil penalty phase, which means the likelihood of those penalties being reduced is next to nil.” Rash said.
Rash asked the IRS to send him a transcript of the paperwork so he could write an abatement letter and try, on behalf of the city, to reduce the $160,000 penalty.
Two issues with the IRS were resolved on these calls.
Rash found it too “You had money in what’s called Pennsylvania unclaimed funds, so I went to the unclaimed funds website. I took your money out of those entities,” she said
“I’ve been answering questions from department heads and vendors, digging through multiple piles of opened and unopened envelopes and invoices lying around.” she said
Rash filed numerous documents, met with RVTA regarding their cash reconciliations, met with HR and various individuals regarding pensions, military buyback, and discharge pension calculations.
He noted that the 2017 municipal audit was not complete. He is meeting with several people remotely regarding cash management and working with M&T Bank to get all the accounts in the city transferred to the proper names.
“I’ve also been working on a procurement policy for more policies for the city and I’ve been meeting with software vendors for your accounting system because it’s so outdated.” she said
Several reports are not available to the city under the current system, so Rash has been providing some feedback on those accounting systems.
There are still pension calculations and military buyback calculations and discharge calculations to be done.
Rash is reviewing previous audits, completing budget worksheets for non-general funds, and then continuing to sift through the piles of paper left in finance.
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