Press-Republican

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October 10, 2013

Comptroller audit blames legislators

MALONE — A scathing state audit faults Franklin County for repeatedly adopting budgets that do not balance and using reserve funds to run the government.

County Manager and Budget Officer Thomas Leitz said in his response to the state that the findings “are technically correct,” but the county purposely spent down its reserves “to alleviate the burden on taxpayers caused by mandates beyond our control.”  

The State Comptroller’s Office conducted a review of the county’s financial records between Jan. 1, 2009, and June 30, 2013, and repeated an opinion it offered in June that Franklin County is in significant fiscal stress — meaning it does not bring in enough money to meet expenses.

“The legislature routinely relied on appropriating significant amounts of fund balance and reserves to finance operation … as a result, the general fund realized annual operating deficits, a declining fund balance and a declining cash balance over the last four fiscal years,” the report states.

‘NOT ENOUGH CASH’

The funds were so low that the county took out a short-term, $4 million tax-anticipation note to pay its bills, the report states.

“The county’s financial condition will likely decline further during 2013 because the general fund balance is not structurally balanced,” the June audit states, in part because the county had $1,452,000 in expenses in the first six months of the year that it didn’t account for in the adopted budget.

The report also found the county should have at least a month or two months’ worth of cash available to pay its bills, meet payroll and any other required payments.

Also, the county’s fund balance went from $16.5 million in 2009 to $5.7 million in 2012.

The situation was made worse during that time when the county was not paid the $3.5 million in slot-machine profits from the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino that it had expected to receive in 2011 and 2012.

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