State comptroller: Town of Forestport needs to improve budgeting, oversight

An audit of the Town of Forestport, conducted last month by the New York State Comptroller’s Office, found that the Forestport Town Board repeatedly underestimated revenues, and that portions of the fund balance for subsequent years’ budgets were not used as planned.

The audit, which covered the period of January 1 to December 31, 2012 and looked back to January 1, 2008 to review financial trends, also showed that the water and sewer districts were not properly funded—resulting in the general fund having to make interfund loans to these districts to support their operations.

The audit compared the Town’s budgeted revenues with actual results for fiscal years 2008 through 2012.

It was found that the Town underestimated revenues by a total of $1.2 million, or 41 percent of the total estimated revenues for the period.

The largest variance was for sales tax, which was underestimated by an average of $225,000 each year.

The report made recommendations that included making realistic estimates for revenues, using the unexpended surplus in the general fund in a manner that benefits taxpayers, monitoring the sewer district’s financial position, and taking additional action as necessary to eliminate the deficit fund balance and develop long-term financial and capital plans.

In a letter responding to the report, Supervisor Bill Hasenauer stated that the Town of Forestport Town Board will continue their procedures for filling out the budget on the conservative side due to the uncertain calculations of the sales tax.

“Those are just recommendations,” Hasenauer said. “Other towns and villages have tried following the comptroller’s recommendations of future financing and failed. I would rather have a little backup in bank than none. Our town is in good shape financially. I’m very proud of this—we’re prepared if any unforeseen expenses come up.”

In regard to the water and sewer districts being underfunded, Hasenauer said they have dealt with the problem by raising rates and they have a five year plan in place to pay off the debt to the general fund.

In a letter that accompanied the report, the State Comptroller said the audit’s results and recommendations are resources for local government officials to use in effectively managing operations and in meeting the expectations of their constituents.

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