Sorrento drafts wide-ranging policy manual to cover personnel, bookkeeping issues

Sorrento drafts wide-ranging policy manual to cover personnel, bookkeeping issues
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Louisiana Politics

POSTED: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - 5:00am

UPDATED: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - 5:04am

The town of Sorrento is trying to make sure it brings in all the cash that's owed to it. But that is just part of a wide-ranging document that should help the town work more effectively in the future.

The mayor and council reviewed and revised a draft of a new policy manual during a special discussion meeting Tuesday evening. It covers a variety of topics affecting city business, including vacations, town credit cards, internal investigations, purchase orders, bill collections, and bookkeeping.

Sorrento's troubles have been well-documented. From the previous mayor not showing up for work due to a prolonged injury, to the police department being shut down because of insurance problems and the chief's arrest for sexually abusing a woman in police custody.

Most recently, an annual audit showed that the town failed to collect more than $50,000 from court fees and traffic fines, and another $19,000 from unpaid utility bills.

"Sometimes we will not collect the full amount if the person disappears on us or refuses to pay," Mayor Mike Lambert explained.

The inability to collect on accounts receivable is a problem that has gone on for years. Sorrento is a small town with a small staff, so it is difficult for them to track down every overdue account. To reduce future losses from sewer and trash service, the security deposit for each is likely to go from $25 to $60, the same as three months of service, the length of time an account can be unpaid before service is stopped.

"If we only get the $25 deposit, we're still out," Lambert stated. "So let's make it the amount for three months, and then at least we're not losing money in that sense."

Some of the policies in the manual are new, such as allowing the council to hire a collections agency to collect unpaid fines and fees. Others were already town ordinances, but some just needed to be made official.

"Reporting, we're already doing on a monthly and annual basis," said Jacob Waguespack, the town's accountant. "Budget, we're already in compliance, we're just getting it on paper."

Because Sorrento's government is so small, it may not be able to implement all of Waguespack's suggestions, such as having two people sign every check.

"That could be something we put down, and discuss or research more," Lambert said. "We can look at it, we can see."

Council members will look at a revised draft of the policy manual at its next meeting on April 15. The final draft must be written as an ordinance before it can be voted on by the council, which is not likely to take place before May.

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