Press-Republican

March 28, 2013

Comptroller criticizes ORDA over deficit

KIM SMITH DEDAM
Press-Republican

LAKE PLACID — A financial snapshot of the Olympic Regional Development Authority raised the concern of New York’s comptroller.

According to the “By the Numbers” report, ORDA earned operating revenue (from sales) of $22.98 million last fiscal year, but operating expenses were $39.93 million —  a deficit of about $16.95 million.

When capital contributions from New York state, North Elba and the Economic Development Corp. are factored in, the Comptroller reported that ORDA spent $40.4 million and took in $39.7 million in revenues in 2012.

“The authority’s financial statements identified an operating loss of $16.9 million in 2012,” Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s office said. 

In addition, operations rely on a line of credit to use before grant monies are released.

“ORDA has maintained up to a $7 million private line of credit, which it calls on to fill periodic funding shortfalls in operating revenues and to fund projects while it awaits payment of (Empire State Development Corp.) grant funding.”

REVENUE CHANGES

A bar chart in the report shows that revenue dropped significantly from 2007, when income topped out at close to $52 million, to a low of about $37 million in 2010.

Revenue has increased in the past two years.

The chart shows expenditures have dropped from about $43 million in 2010 to just over $40 million last year.

State-aid cuts to ORDA began in 2008, and funding from New York has decreased by half, from $8.6 million in five years ago to about $4.7 million this fiscal year, accounting for part of the revenue loss.

The review shows Olympic venues are operating in the red but by a lesser margin than in the past two years.

ORDA reported revenue declined by $3.1 million in 2012 due to warm weather, and fewer ski days, last winter.

WILL LAUNCH AUDIT

The report is not an audit, according to Comptroller’s Office Deputy Press Secretary Kate Gurnett.

“It’s really more of a review. All state public authorities have to report to PARIS (Public Authorities Reporting Information System),” she said Wednesday.

“We’re going to launch an actual audit to look at cash flow and all other issues.”

Data the Comptroller cited suggested that ORDA’s payroll has increased 38 percent since 2008, and compensation has gone up 20 percent in the same time period. 

As of 2012, according to “By the Numbers,” ORDA employed 204 full-time and 1,106 seasonal, part-time workers — 38 percent of ORDA’s workers make less than $25,000 per year.

Total payroll in 2012 was $12.6 million, allowing more than $38,000 for employee “advances,” which the Comptroller’s Office questioned.

“The details of why this mechanism is used and whether it is an appropriate use of authority resources remain unclear,” the report says.

PROCUREMENT CONTRACTS

Payroll and related expenses are 52 percent of total costs to run and maintain Olympic venues, according to the comptroller’s review.

Utilities and fuel consume 11 percent of total costs.

And 5 percent is contractual services.

“In (fiscal year) 2012, ORDA reported 304 active procurement contracts with a total value of more than $27 million. Of those, 107 procurement contracts were entered into through a competitive-bidding process, with a total value of $19 million,” the report said.

Contracts awarded in a noncompetitive process were 40 percent of ORDA’s procurements.

Noncompetitive agreements “represent only 19 percent of the total value of the authority’s procurements,” the comptroller’s review said.

‘ESSENTIAL TO ECONOMY’

The report also recognized ORDA’s regional value as an employer and as a national and international center for sports competition.

“ORDA and its venues remain an essential part of the North Country economy. In addition to operating and maintaining the various facilities under its control, the authority hosts national and international sporting events, drawing competitors and spectators from around the country and throughout the world.

“ORDA also provides venues and services for meetings, conferences and special events, encourages participation in winter sports and promotes tourism in the Adirondack region. It is because of this vital role, along with continuing fiscal pressures at the state and local levels, that Comptroller DiNapoli has highlighted ORDA.”

The regional import indicates a reason for renewed focus from the state.

“These factors underscore the need to ensure that ORDA’s operations, along with its use of financial assistance from the state and other entities, are efficient and effective,” the newly published document said.

OWNED BY STATE

The state owns and is in charge of managing all of the ORDA facilities, including two Olympic Centers (from the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics); the Olympic Museum; the bobsled, luge and skeleton track at Mount Van Hoevenberg; a ski jumping and training complex in Lake Placid; and Gore, Whiteface and Belleayre Mountain ski centers.

DiNapoli said in the report that ORDA’s assumption of operations at Belleayre prompted this initial review.

Belleayre operations were added to ORDA’s facilities list this fiscal year.

“This comes at a time when (ORDA) continues to rely on financial assistance from New York state, state public authorities and the Town of North Elba, as well as a line of credit, to meet its spending needs,” the report said.

Email Kim Smith Dedam: kdedam@pressrepublican.com