The Board of Selectmen on Wednesday approved sending $50,000 from the town's quarter-million-dollar contingency account to the Finance Department's professional services budget to be used for an audit of town operations.

The proposal will now go before the Board of Finance, which next meets on May 4. If passed, it will go for final approval before the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) in late May.

Flatto asked that the operational audit begin as soon as possible -- which would likely be early summer -- so that any efficiencies found can be included in drafts for the 2011-12 fiscal budget, which will start next fall.

He also expressed interest in coordinating the town's audit with that of the Board of Education, which last month voted to hire an independent auditor for its own operational audit. If the two entities can use the same firm, it could be less expensive, Flatto said.

Reached for comment on Thursday, Pam Iacono, vice chairman of the Board of Education, said that the board's vote last month -- that it wants to hire its own auditor -- remains its position. "If there's a way to combine services to save money," she added, "the board should consider that."

Any talks between the two sides are preliminary in nature for now, as 2010-11 budgets for both entities remain to be finalized. But Board of Finance Chairman Tom Flynn expressed hope that the audits could be streamlined.

"Based on prior [Board of Finance] discussions, I think that having an operational audit across all town departments including the Board of Education would be preferred," he said. "I believe that it would be beneficial to all parties if they used the same firm, the same process and perhaps a coordinated management of efforts."

He added that doing so could prove challenging. "I think the Board of Education has a different opinion on the matter," he said. "And I hope that they would reconsider that decision and we could coordinate efforts."

The last time the town had an operational audit performed was in the mid-90s, under then First Selectman Paul Audley. Before that, the town had one in the mid-80s, during the tenure of the late First Selectman Jackie Durrell.

"It gives you a benchmark as to what you're doing right, what you're doing wrong, what you might be able to do better, and how you might deliver services more cost-effectively," said Paul Hiller, the town's chief fiscal officer.

Added Flatto on Thursday: "I think the Board of Education and the town have similar objectives, so why not come up with a joint process?"