Newburg keeps 2020 budget flat amid ‘disarray’

Village adopts no-increase levy as officials grapple with ‘questionable’ bookkeeping by previous administration
Ozaukee Press Staff

The Newburg Village Board’s 2020 budget is largely unchanged from 2019, as the village climbs out of what officials call the administrative and fiscal “disarray” left by the previous administration.

That includes a discovery that the village may have paid thousands of dollars too much to its former clerk, Rick Goeckner, after he resigned in May.

Goeckner was paid for 29 days of vacation, 22 of which he had earned since joining the village in 2013 that had been rolled over year to year. In addition, Goeckner accrued seven days in 2019, current Clerk Deanna Alexander wrote in a memo to the Village Board.

But Alexander said village policy only allows five days vacation to be rolled over to the next year, and an employee has until  only March 31 to use those days, otherwise they are lost.

“Under the most generous interpretation of village policies, the maximum amount that could have been owed to Mr. Goeckner upon separation from employment (was) payment for 12 days of vacation time,” Alexander wrote.

That means the $7,242 the village paid Goeckner was $4,245 to $5,244 more than he should have received, “depending on how policy is interpreted,” Alexander wrote. 

Alexander said she believes Goeckner knew he was overpaid but had not contacted the village to return the funds.

Village Attorney Ian Prust told trustees they have the option of recovering the overpayment.

Goeckner and Treasurer Chrissie Brynwood resigned abruptly in May, saying they felt threatened by some residents and that the atmosphere in village government had become toxic after Board President Rena Chesak was found to have violated the village ethics code by participating in discussions over its contract with the Newburg Fire Department. She is married to Fire Chief Mark Chesak.

Alexander was appointed clerk in June and found that basic information, such as online passwords to village accounts, were not left behind.

“The village’s record-keeping and accounting systems were in complete disarray,” she said. 

In addition, Alexander said, she has found “questionable” entries in the village books, including figures repeatedly entered and reversed, then entered again, and transactions for smaller amounts for which there is no documentation.

In a press release, Alexander called the “village’s past filing and bookkeeping practices ... unnecessarily convoluted systems that make it difficult to trace transactions and gather realistic year-to-date figures.”

“At best it was shoddy record keeping and the board is concerned because the documents and paper trails are not evident,” Alexander said in an interview.

Those discoveries prompted Trustee Sarah Beimborn to introduce an amendment to the budget creating a contingency fund that would be used to hire a forensic accountant or fraud investigator “for the purpose of pursuing an investigation into the fiduciary and fiscal activities of the former administrator and treasurer.”

That amendment was withdrawn, but a contingency fund was created that could be used to cover unforeseen expenses in all departments.

The village has never had a contingency fund, Alexander said.

“We’re creating one mainly because it’s very difficult to estimate what expenses will be because we don’t have accurate 2019 numbers,” Alexander said. 

The contingency fund could still be used to hire a forensic accountant, Alexander said. 

“Long term, the village would like to do some roadway projects. In the event the fund is not needed, it will default to savings for roads,” she said.

Added to the budget and record-keeping snafu, Goeckner has continued to pepper village officials with open-records requests, mostly for copies of emails from Chesak and other trustees, Alexander said.

“We’ve tried to provide everything he has asked for,” she said. 

All village trustees except for Beimborn have village email addresses now. Until recently, many of them had used their private emails to discuss village business. There is no email link for Beimborn on the village website.

Under the budget, the 2020 tax levy stays the same from 2019 at $654,108 while general fund spending remains unchanged at $1.62 million.

The tax rate is $7.90 per $1,000 assessed value, meaning the owner of a $200,000 house will pay $1,580 in village property taxes.

The budget includes a 2% pay increase for village employees.



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