Press-Republican

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February 19, 2013

Black Brook audit cites utility deficit

AuSABLE FORKS — A state audit says financial problems in the Town of Black Brook’s water and sewer districts could have been corrected by just raising fees.

Officials in the Clinton County town responded that it’s not that simple, although they have increased user charges and made other changes following the audit by the State Comptroller’s Office.

‘NOT REASONABLE’

The recently released audit said “town officials were aware of revenue shortfalls and did not take the appropriate action to maintain the districts’ financial stability.

“In addition, the (town) board adopted budgets for the sewer and water districts that were not reasonable or structurally balanced. This resulted in annual operating deficits, declining fund balances and declining cash balances.”

COSTS SHARED

The AuSable Forks-Black Brook Sewer District has 150 users, and expenses at the plant were shared with the adjacent Town of Jay in Essex County. Jay took over the plant on Jan. 1, 2012, so Black Brook no longer runs it.

AuSable Forks is a hamlet partially in both towns.

The report says the sewer district had a $41,000 deficit at the end of 2011. At that time, rates had not been increased for 10 years, the audit says.

“The (Town Council) was aware that the sewer user charges were not sufficient to meet the operating needs of the sewer district, and town officials were considering ways to restructure the rates,” the state audit says.

‘BETTER CONTROL’

That has now been done, Black Brook Councilor Howard Aubin said recently.

“We raised our rates. We’re putting in all new software so we can have better (financial) control. We had a very antiquated (record) system. That will make it a lot more efficient.”

Black Brook has two water districts, serving about 240 users. Deficits in those districts for 2010 and 2011 totaled about $121,900, the report said, although by 2012, it had been reduced to $18,000.

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