Town Accountant

The basic roles and responsibilities of the Town Accountant (Town Auditor); The General Laws provide for the election of one or more town auditors. The role of this position is to review the municipality’s financial books and ensure that proper procedures are being maintained. The laws also provide for the appointment of a town accountant C.41,S.55. Towns that have made such an appointment have the option of abolishing the position of auditor. All but the smallest towns in Massachusetts have appointed town accountants and abolished the position of auditor. The town accountant automatically assumes the auditor’s duties upon the abolition of the auditor position. The town accountant should be a person with training and experience to maintain the municipality’s key financial records. These records include statements of expenditures and revenues, as well as a balance sheet of assets, liabilities and fund balances. The records verify that a town’s monies are being collected and disbursed in accordance with the law and the municipality’s financial policies, including its operating budget.

Town accountants review proposed expenditures to make sure that money has been lawfully appropriated to pay for them. Accountants are empowered to prepare all warrants for payment (a warrant is a list of bills drawn up by the accountant for signature by the selectmen or manager) and to withhold payment of a particular item if they have reason to believe the expense is illegal or fraudulent, or in excess of appropriation. To authorize expenditure payments, accountants should make sure that services have been performed, that sufficient money is available in the appropriation account, that the expenditure is for a legal purpose, and that procurement of the good or service occurred in conformance with purchasing requirements. Copies of all contracts involving payments to vendors should be sent to the office of the accountant, who will approve all requests for payment upon receipt of goods or services by the town.

The accountant is responsible for custody of all municipal contracts. In addition, the town accountant is responsible for the preparation of numerous summary reports, including the annual statement of expenditures and revenues and the annual balance sheet. Required annual reports like the Schedule A (detailed statement of revenues and expenditures) are usually completed by the accountant. The Schedule A must be prepared and submitted to the Department of Revenue by a predetermined due date or state aid payments may by law be withheld. The accountant is also responsible for preparing any interim reports for use by the municipality’s other fiscal officers. In addition, accountants should prepare monthly reports on spending versus appropriation and should notify department heads and selectmen of any potential overspending.

Excerpts from: A Guide to Financial Management for Town Officials, Massachusetts Department of Revenue Division of Local Services

Staff Contacts

Name Title
Joe Boudreau Town Accountant