Eatonville officials used $164,418 in donations meant for a multi-use trail and pedestrian bridge project to help cover general operating expenses for the town in 2010, according to state auditors.
The state Auditor’s Office, in a finding released Monday, said the town “violated its agreement with donors” and didn’t give the public an accurate financial picture.
Eatonville admits spending donations for the planned Bud Blancher Trail project to help cover the cost of town government. Town officials told state auditors that they used the donated money “for cash flow purposes in the stressed current expense fund,” which is the town’s general operating fund.
Mayor Ray Harper said the town’s fire department expanded a few years ago, putting a strain on the fund. This year, the fund is running at a deficit, he said.
Harper has proposed disbanding the town’s police department – another hefty general operating expense – and contracting with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department to save money. The Town Council is expected to vote on a contract next week.
Harper said he’s doing his best to “cut expenses and pay the bills of the town.” Town officials told the auditors that they have a plan to pay back the trail donations.
The town received more than $500,000 in donations for the project in 2009 and 2010 and placed the money in its general operating fund. The money was to be used only for the project, the audit finding says.
In other findings, auditors said officials in the Mount Rainier foothills town made some mistakes in reporting expenditures of federal money in 2010, resulting in a missed reporting deadline.
And, they wrote, the town didn’t provide enough oversight of a project for which it received a federal grant. The project involved installing underground electrical lines.
“Without proper controls in place, the town cannot ensure compliance with grant requirements,” auditors wrote of that issue.
Town officials said employees will attend training on the federal expenditure reporting process, and that Eatonville has a new town administrator who is “very familiar with the federal requirements for federally funded projects.”
Sara Schilling: 253-552-7058