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November 13, 2010

 

Problems persist in Treasurer’s Office

Audit finds balancing accounts remains a problem but notes steps toward improvement

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

Certified Public Accountant Rick McNeilly told Cortland County officials Friday that problems persist with reconciling accounts in the Treasurer’s Office, although he said the issues are being addressed and thinks the county’s fiscal standing is strong with about $8.5 million in the general fund by the end of 2010.
This fund balance will be reduced to $6 million next year as $2.5 million is used to offset the tax levy, a move Legislature Chairman Jack Williams said he is comfortable with.
McNeilly audited the county’s fiscal performance throughout 2009 and made projections based on this year’s spending, delivering his report to the Budget and Finance Committee Friday.
McNeilly recommends the county do a cash flow analysis for the general fund in January and February 2011, because he says it is possible the account could have a cash shortfall if the state is late on paying claims.
Williams (D-8th Ward) said after the meeting the analysis would come from the Treasurer’s Office.
Williams said he is not very concerned with the potential shortfall, saying a similar problem was expected this year but did not occur.
According to Williams, the amount in fund balance should be based on the amount of revenue that comes from real property and sales taxes, not the entire budget.
“The basis should be on the (approximately) $40 million you’re taxing, trying to make sure you cover something for next year,” Williams said, adding he thinks it is unfair to tax people on the larger figure of about $118 million for the entire budget to have a larger reserve cushion.
Williams added he thinks next year will be a “tough year” but thinks by 2013 the county’s fiscal situation will improve because he believes the economy will rebound.
McNeilly’s report also highlighted continued problems within the Treasurer’s Office with balancing accounts, an issue that arose in past audits he performed.
But McNeilly said the county’s hiring of Certified Public Accountant John Regan months ago to help get the office on track, should resolve the issues.
“They brought the CPA in to review and give specific procedures on what to do,” McNeilly said, adding the Budget and Finance Committee will review the department to ensure accounts are balanced on a timely basis.
“That will definitely address the problems if they do that,” McNeilly said.
Starting next year, the addition of a principal account clerk in the office, will help the Treasurer’s Office balance accounts in a timely manner, said Williams.
One problem McNeilly outlined is that this year’s debt payments in the solid waste fund will likely cause the county to further deplete its general fund, taking about $300,000 from it to cover payments in 2011.
Because of this, McNeilly recommends the county look at landfill operations and see if revenues can be increased or expenses decreased.
A recent report by the Niagara Falls-based consultant EnSol Inc., recommended selling or leasing the landfill to make it a regional operation. The county will have a public hearing on this recommendation at 6 p.m. Dec. 6.
Williams said he is hopeful one of these solutions will address the county’s debt problem.
“We will get all the information and sit down and try to make an intelligent decision,” Williams said.
County Treasurer Patrick O’Mara did not return a phone call for comment and County Administrator Martin Murphy could not be reached for comment by press time.

 

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