State: Afton, Colesville district mishandling taxpayer money

By Conor Mooney

State: Afton, Colesville district mishandling taxpayer money

December 27, 2013 Updated Dec 27, 2013 at 9:46 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) One local town and one fire district have done a poor job of handling taxpayer money, according to audits released Friday by the state.

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office said members of the Afton Town Board have been adopting budgets that didn't take into account all of the needs of their town.

And they've been making large buys on items that were not even budgeted, the state said.

For example, they spent $590,000 on a highway garage that was not included in the town's budget, according to the audit.

"We reviewed budgets for the last five completed fiscal years and
found that not only did the Board not budget for larger expenditures,
but they also did not consider historical information while preparing
the subsequent years’ budgets," according to the audit. "These poor budgeting practices led to operating deficits in certain years for the various funds."

Town Supervisor John Lawrence said the audit was a learning experience for board members.

"The Afton Town Board has always strived to find a balance between services provided and cost to taxpayers," Lawrence wrote in response. "This audit will serve as a learning tool to provide better services to the Town."

Another state audit released Friday found the Colesville Fire District One is without adequate financial policies and procedures.

Although the board adopted a code of ethics, it did not adopt an investment policy, the state said.

The board has also not been able to prove that financial procedures and reporting are being followed.

"All of these control deficiencies expose the District to the risk that errors and/or irregularities could occur and not be detected and corrected in a timely manner," according to the audit.

"We found that disbursements were for District purposes and were recorded and supported. We also verified that the cash receipts recorded by the Treasurer in the accounting records were deposited in the District’s bank account. To improve the accountability over taxpayer moneys, the Board should implement improved financial controls," according to the audit.

The audit also revealed the fire district's treasurer failed on a regular basis to verify bank accounts with what the district actually has in its finances. However, the audit said verifications of the district's bank accounts showed no money missing or misappropriated.

District Chairman William Warren wrote to the state in November, saying he and the district agreed with the audit's findings. Warren said the district will address the state's recommendations during their first meeting in January.

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