During the routine process of setting up the town’s tax anticipation letter of credit, some bad feelings surfaced between the treasurer and some of the select people. It didn’t help any that a few of the other select people appeared to be in a total fog about the fuss.
The duties of the town treasurer are stipulated by RSA 41:29, which if you care to read it, is quite a handful. However, it does not appear to specifically address tax anticipation notes. For that there is a different statute, RSA 33:7 which states that “the treasurer of any town, with the approval of the selectmen, may issue notes…”; however, that authority seems to be restricted to the time between the beggining of the fiscal year (January in Mason) until town meeting.
Also in Mason’s case, the tax anticipation note currently takes the form of a letter of credit. This essentially means that the town does not borrow money until it is needed to pay bills. However, the issue at hand at this particular meeting was “who is authorized to pull cash from the letter of credit”?
The treasurer thought that once the TANS was set up, she could move funds from the letter of credit into the general fund as needed.
It was Selectman Moser’s opinion that the treasurer should inform the board of selectmen before the money is needed and get the board’s approval.
However, since the selectmen ostensibly meet only every two weeks, approval appeared to be an uneccessary burden to the treasurer.
Selectman Lavioe pointed out that if the selectmen are informed early enough about the need to move money, they [the selectmen] had other levers they could pull [like defer expenditures into the future].
In any case, the discussion went over the same ground a few times with the treasurer asking what changed to prompt this new requirement? And Selectman Moser stating “that this shouldn’t be an issue that should have you [the treasurer] yelling at us” during a particularly heated portion of the discussion.
The selectmen held fast in that they wanted to know when the TANS was accessed (however, ironically, it is their spending authorizations that create the cash flow).
In any case, keeping two sets of books is part of the separation of powers, but does occasionally have its difficulties. From the point of view of the audience, we were not entirely convinced that the issues got resolved.