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December 1, 2012

CPA: FEMA money was not lost in budget

ELIZABETHTOWN — The $2.8 million in FEMA reimbursements used to keep the new Essex County budget under the state tax cap was not new revenue, according to the county’s certified public accountant.

County Purchasing Agent/CPA Linda Wolf said Friday that the $2.8 million was not listed under

revenue in the 2013 budget because it was not revenue.

“It goes into fund balance,” Wolf said. “That’s where it would be listed. There was no mistake in not listing it as revenue, because it was not revenue.”

But Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah), the chair of the County Finance Committee, said that he hadn’t known until a budget workshop Thursday that the money was expected.

It was used, along with a package of spending cuts, to get the proposed tax levy for next year under the county’s allowed state cap increase of 2.6 percent.

“I’m not an accountant,” Scozzafava said Friday. “We can call it (the FEMA money) whatever we want to call it. The bottom line is there’s $2.8 million the Board of Supervisors has chosen to use to reduce the levy. Is it a revenue? It’s a revenue in my terminology.”

NOT HIDDEN

Before the budget workshop, the county was facing a 26 percent tax levy increase, much of it from additional state mandates, in its tentative 2013 budget.

Wolf said they’ve been getting calls accusing her office of hiding the Federal Emergency Management Agency money as the budget was being prepared, and that is not correct.

The $2.8 million represented most of the county’s FEMA reimbursement from the 2011 floods. The county had already received $1 million from FEMA for infrastructure damage it had to repair.

USING BIGGER SURPLUS

Wolf said the $2.8 million due from FEMA is not new, additional revenue in the 2013 budget.

“The $2.8 million is an amount that the general fund has loaned to the Capital Project Fund and has not been received back yet. Therefore, when I prepared the available cash within the general-fund balance on Nov. 15, I deducted that amount.

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