The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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April 3, 2013

Portage Twp. reverses financial problems

PORTAGE — Portage Township is up $182,000 in net profit for the year following last year’s deficit of about $100,000.

Results of the township’s recent professional audit by accounting firm Wessel & Co. of Johnstown were returned Wednesday night at a board of supervisors meeting. The township posted its first surplus since it began working with the agency three years ago.

“2012 was a good year,” said Wessel partner Stephanie Stohon, who presented the results to the board.

Supervisor Rick Olshavsky said the township has always tried to be frugal. Recent cuts to management positions meant money spent on expenses and benefits could stay in the coffers.

“We’ve been saving for years,” he said. “We’re getting better at budgeting.”

He added that although funds flowing in from the addition of windmills in 2005 is a help, it can still be hard work to keep the township’s six mill rates.

The “clean” 2012 audit from Wessel & Co. will, according to Stohon, speak volumes to any financing agencies, such as PennVEST, that the township may deal with in the future. The reference was delivered in the form of an “opinion” statement in the audit paperwork.

“They would look at this first and you’d be on their ‘good list’,” Stohon said.

The supervisors were commended by resident Bob Brickley of Muenster, who kept notes during the meeting alongside Stohon’s presentation. The board also acknowledged the firm for its help in this and a recent fraud investigation.

“We wanted to thank you for helping us through our troubled times in the recent past,” Olshavsky said to Stohon.

Olshavsky is referring to the June 2012 ousting of township treasurer Lisa Flynn, who’s been accused of stealing about $20,000, which occurred over her tenure from 2007 to March of last year.

Wessel & Co. uncovered the thefts during last year’s audit.

“The township accrued a lot of extra expenses because of (Flynn),” said the newest supervisor, Jeffrey Kostan, who would not name the ex-treasurer as the investigation is still active.

Supervisors said they will now be looking to pay for new projects, specifically a new township garage on Solomon Road.

“You can’t take it with you,” Kostan said.

Supervisor Ben Selapack said he leans toward caution – a “down payment” on a future problem could save a future day.

“But (the township) is gonna be here a lot longer than we are,” he said with a chuckle.

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