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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Question...When is a mistake no longer just a "mistake"?

The budget process...Tentative budget which is basically the Supervisor's budget; then the town board has input to create the Preliminary budget [which is the budget that is given to the public and discussed at the Public Hearing] and then the vote of the town board to accept the Preliminary Budget which if a favorable board vote becomes the Adopted Budget.

Last year, at the October 27, 2010 town board meeting, the Tentative Budget for 2011 was discussed by the town board so that a Preliminary Budget could be prepared and made available to the public prior to the November 2010 Public Hearing as required by Town Law.

Ms. Lawrence spoke at the end of that board meeting and questioned a $20,000 expense to the General Wholetown for the annual insurance payment for Corr. She noted that the expense was also listed in the Police Fund as it should be since it is not a General Wholetown expense.

In the video clip of the October 27, 2010 town board meeting below, Supervisor Tyksinski can be seen acknowledging that Ms. Lawrence is correct; a mistake had been made and would be corrected. It was also noted in the official town board minutes [although Ms. Lawrence did not say General Fund Part-town; the two funds in question were the Police Fund and the General Wholetown as you can hear on the videotape]:
October 27, 2010

Cathy Lawrence brought to the Board’s attention that the Corr Health Insurance line item appeared in two places in the budget; in the General Fund Whole-Town and the General Fund Part-Town. The Town Supervisor will correct this.
We received a copy of the Preliminary Budget to ensure that the correction had been made; it was indeed corrected as of October 28, 2010.

However, somewhere between the Preliminary Budget, the Public Hearing and the adoption of the 2011 budget by the board, the $20,000 was placed back in the General Wholetown Fund as you can see here.

The problem with this is twofold...first, all taxpayers were taxed twice for the same budget item; second, taxpayers in the Village of New York Mills were taxed for a police expense when by Town Law, a village with a police force of more than five (5) cannot be taxed by a town for police expenditures; such is the case with town taxpayers living in the Village of New York Mills. This is the same Town Law that was the basis for the NYS Comptroller to report in the audit that over $500,000 was borrowed from the General Wholetown Fund to cover shortfalls in the Police Fund and it had to be repaid.

A mistake is forgivable...the budget process is arduous. However, when a mistake is pointed out, acknowledged and corrected, there is no excuse for the same "mistake" to be placed back in the adopted budget unless it wasn't a "mistake" in the first place but rather a means of trying to pad the budget.

Speaking of the budget, one of the good things that Supervisor Tyksinski began after he took office was to give the board members a monthly statement of expenses and revenues. However, about October 2010, the revenue report stopped being given to the town board so that they now only have half the picture regarding the financial status of the town. Apparently, the board members either don't realize the importance of having both expenses and revenues or they don't bother to review the reports anyway so they never noticed.

On October 21, 2011, we decided to FOIL both the expense and revenue reports as of September 30, 2011. Through our FOIL request, we've been provided with the expense report [pdf copy available here], but not the revenue report and our SECOND REQUEST FOIL email went unopened by the Town Clerk last week.

We will be in the Town Clerk's office on Monday to check on the status of our FOIL request for the Revenue report. If it's still not avaiable, we will be preparing a FOIL appeal for the November 9, 2011 town board meeting.

There are a couple of reasons we can think of why the revenue reports are not forthcoming; however, we cannot think of any reason why a year later no one on the town board has questioned the Supervisor or his appointed Director of Finance as to the whereabouts of the revenue reports. How can anyone diligently judge the financial picture of a town without looking at both expenses and revenues?

By the way, the Director of Finance is scheduled to receive an increase in pay from $10,400 to $36,000. For this he is scheduled to work more hours.

Here is an interesting video clip from the October 26, 2011 town board meeting...listen as the town board opines on the fact that no one on the board knows this person, has ever met him or has ever spoken to him either in person or on the phone though he was appointed to the position by Supervisor Tyksinski on January 26, 2011.

The Public Hearing for the 2012 budget is set for November 9, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. How many extra $$ are in the 2012 budget? We will post the agenda as soon as it is made available.

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