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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Figures...


I would love to know what information was used to create the 2010, 2011, 2012 & 2013 financial audits by D'Arcangelo regarding the Oneida County Consent Order.

There were several town board meetings with Steve Devan, Commissioner of the Oneida County Sewer District and Attorney Peter Rayhill in attendance to discuss the surcharge required to pay for the needed repairs. Tyksinski was opposed to New Hartford paying the greatest share of the cost and would not agree to allow the surcharge to be placed on the water bills of town residents in the district; negotiations were ongoing.

I put together a timeline with town board minutes on one side of the page and excerpts of town audits prepared by D'Arcangelo covering the years 2010 - 2013 on the other side which you can access here.

At the January 27, 2010 town board meeting Resolution 50 of 2010 was adopted; the town agreed to pay Oneida County $40,000 a month each quarter for the first year and revisit it again in 2011.

By my calculations, that would be $480,000 for 2010 which, according to board resolution, would be paid from the Mitigation Fund.

However, the 2010 Financials prepared by D'Arcangelo state that the town paid $459,227 from the Sewer Fund in 2010.

If you compare those figures to the 2012 Oneida County Revenue budget for G-Water Poll Control - Administration it tells a different story. Revenue Account G-2124.7 SSO Surcharge - Town of New Hartford shows revenue of $320,000 was received from the Town of New Hartford.

The 2013 Oneida County Budget G-Water Poll Control - Administration says total revenue received from New Hartford in 2011 was $259,227.

However, the 2011 town's financial statements prepared by D'Arcangelo states "In 2011, the Town of New Hartford's total surcharge was paid from a transfer from the Mitigation fund to the Sewer District in the amount of $443,173."

Looking ahead to the 2012 Financials prepared by D'Arcangelo on page 42 says the $443,173 for 2011 was paid from the Sewer Fund, but on page 43 the audit states that an equity transfer was made for $443,173 from the Sewer Fund back to the Mitigation fund because the funds were to be funded through use of Mitigation fees, but the funds were not transferred within the periods as authorized by resolution.

That brings us to the 2013 Financials prepared by D'Arcangelo; the note on page 42 state that the 2011 surcharge was paid by the Sewer fund balance in the amount of $443,173.

So let me ask...Any questions?

Friends, the Sewer District is only one (1) special district that has some very funny things going on and it would appear to be used as a slush fund to fill budget gaps.

We also have reported on the Willowvale Pension fund that appears to be overtaxed and the extra money appears to have been spent to fill town budget holes contrary to the requirements of NYS Town Law.

We have Fire District 1 & 2 that has supposedly been taxed for a "deficit" that the Finance Office was unable to justify.

We have the Higby Road Water District which a fund balance of over $100,000 yet that district has no other costs other than a 0% interest bond so how can a large fund balance (if it is even in cash and not I.O.U.s) be justified ?

We have lighting districts that have been overtaxed by increasing the contract prices in the annual budgets.

On top of that since 2011 earned interest on the money in the bank for each fund has not been distributed to each fund in the audits as required by law. Where is the money that is due each fund?

All of this has absolutely nothing to do with the declining sales tax revenue due to the Coronovirus shut-down. It has to do with insufficient financial oversight of the town board due to crappy monthly reports given to the town board that are insufficient for monitoring the financial condition of the town; lousy budgeting; and poor judgment of our supervisor(s).

Even so, the town board unanimously voted to pay the current auditors to visit the town monthly to oversee the work done by Miscione and the Finance Office person instead of hiring a full-time person who is experienced with town finance.  What could possibly go wrong?



Sunday, May 17, 2020

Trying to square a circle...


In reviewing financial statements of the Town of New Hartford prepared by the firm of D'Arcangelo & Co from 2010 to 2013, I have to ask...where did they ever get this information? Don't need to answer that...it is very apparent.

The 2010 audit says on page 10 and page 40:
"Department of Environmental Conservation Consent Order directs the District to mitigate the future effects of the sewer overflows along the Sauquoit Creek Basin. The total project is estimated to cost $79.2 million. The initial phase of the project is expected to cost approximately $25 million. In 2010, all participating users began paying a surcharge of $1.05 per 1000 gallons of water used except those in the Town of New Hartford. In 2010, the Town of New Hartford's total surcharge was paid from the Sewer's fund balance to the District in the amount of $459,227. In the subsequent years, this amount will be paid annually by a direct charge by the District to the users until the project complete and any borrowings are paid in full."
News to me...I was at the several meetings held in 2010 and 2011 to discuss the DEC Consent Order...I didn't hear anything like that; plus adopted resolutions in town board minutes tell a different story.

Ahhh, but it gets worse.

My friends, it is too nice a day for me to commit to staying indoors reviewing b/s from this town so please excuse me while I go outside and enjoy the day.

The corruption in this town knows no bounds...have a good one!

p.s. Miscone, now would be a good time to get the auditors busy auditing ALL special districts!



Saturday, May 16, 2020

Air plants...

I love plants…inside or outside; doesn’t matter. Perhaps it is the challenge of trying to make sure that they survive that lures me to them.

I just received some new houseplants known as "Air Plants".

Amazing little specimen...you soak them in a tray of water for about an hour every week; then just place them in a container and they just grow. They don’t need soil or fertilizer or any other care…they are the perfect plant…completely maintenance free except for once a week dousing them in water.

It got me to thinking...what if town budgets were the same way…no maintenance except once a week and the budgeted appropriation detail just starts growing to meet your "needs"... never mind that the adopted budget you started out with doesn't match.

Spend, spend, spend and magically at year-end even though the total expenses that were part of the adopted budget you started with are not the same as the budget you end up with, you merely find "extra" revenue to cover the additional appropriations.

Sounds unbelievable, but my friends, that appears to be exactly what is happening in New Hartford except in the town’s case the appropriated budget lines must be doused with fertilizer because it stinks.

It seems that the town's adopted budget starts out with a set amount of money to spend with anticipated revenues to offset the expense and magically at year-end (or sometimes during the year) the appropriated budget lines get amended without town board approval so that more than initially budgeted can be spent.

What are these additional budget appropriations to be used for and who made the decision to increase the adopted budget in the first place? What revenues is the town board anticipating now that they were not anticipating back in November when the budget was adopted?

The mysterious increased budget figures are the reason why I FOILed “copies of any purchase orders; vouchers; invoices; and copies of cancelled checks for General Wholetown account AA-5182-04 (Street Lighting) for the period June 2019 to December 2019”.

I noticed in the December 2019 Supervisor's Report that $3,000 was added to the adopted budget figure in that particular budget line.

According to the Account Audit Trail report I received with my FOIL, on January 13, 2020 a budget transfer of $3,000 "to realign expenditure account budgets to actual" was posted to A5182.40 Street Lighting Contractual.

The detail column on the Audit Trail report had "122019". Did the money get transferred to that account in 12/2019 and not posted until January 13, 2020 because there was no cash available until tax revenue started coming in and Miscione wanted to get the transfer into his December 2019 Supervisor's Report?

I also noticed that even with the $3,000 transfer, it still left the Street Lighting budget over-expended by an additional $2,156.08 at year-end. Almost looks like Miscione was $3,000 short of cash to close out the Street Lighting Contractual account.

I emailed Miscione, but he didn't answer me other than to say, "Should I have the accounting firm do an additional audit on the districts." That, sir, would be a good start!

Later Miscione replied, "I asked them if they can give me a true cash balances for all the funds."

Looking back at prior year Supervisor Reports, that particular account was over-expended for at least the years 2017 and 2018 as well.

The current April 2020 Supervisor’s Report also appears to include several appropriation budget lines that have already been increased for this year. In fact, there appears to be about $23,000 of expense added to the 2020 General Wholetown budgeted appropriations; and $487 added to General Part town.

Adopted Budget Appropriations were also increased in the Police Fund budget; Highway Part Town; and the Lighting Districts also appear to be changed. How did that happen and why? Where is the extra money to pay these added appropriations coming from?

Maybe Miscione has a reason for all this; if he does, I would love to hear it!

By law, budgeted appropriations CANNOT be changed without a town board resolution stating where the money is being taken from and where it is going and why the transfer is necessary!

Contrary to what the previous Finance Director wanted everyone to believe, there is no such thing as an internal transfer. That would actually be called "cooking the books"...period!

Someone on the town board needs to start opening their eyes and asking some serious questions such as “what the HELL is going on” and “are the auditors finished with their report on the “true” cash balance of each fund yet?” "If so, we would like to see it!"


I will leave you with a comment on Miscione's idea brought to the table at the last town board meeting to add a BMX USA track to the Sherrillbrook town park. Cully was going to look into it; I will be anxious to hear what he finds out.

I already know it can be done and how; I will guarantee everyone that BMX USA will not like the legal requirements of how it has to be structured in order to comply with the law.

Should be interesting to see what research Cully comes up with...just saying!



Wednesday, May 13, 2020

You're going to take what out of where, Supervisor?

..I don't think so, at least not legally!

At the last town board meeting on April 29, 2020, the supervisor suggested taking money from the funds budgeted to be paid to the New Hartford Public Library to close up gaps in the town's finances.

As I noted in my email to both Miscione and Cully after the meeting, NYS Education Law is very specific about how funds budgeted for public libraries are to be handled.

Once the town adopts their budget to include monies to be paid to the library, those funds are no longer town funds. The NYS Comptroller in several opinions which are attached here states:
"All moneys received from taxes or other public sources for "library purposes" must be kept as a separate library fund and expended under the direction of the library trustees on properly authenticated vouchers (Education Law, §259[1])."
While the law allows the town, with the approval of the library trustees, to maintain and to co-mingle the funds with other town funds for investment purposes, the town's internal accounting records must include a separate fund for library taxes collected plus any earned interest from the bank account housing the funds must be proportionately distributed to the library account and paid to the library.

It is also important to note that the library cannot give the money back to the town because, according to the NYS Comptroller:
"Education Law, §255(1) authorizes municipalities and school districts to establish a public library and to appropriate moneys raised by tax or otherwise "to equip and maintain such library or libraries or to provide a building or rooms for its or their use".
So the town board is free to do what they desire by obeying the law or ignoring it, but the supervisor should note that according to page 15 of the NYS Comptroller in their "Information for Town Officials" booklet they note:
"Supervisor as Fiscal Officer"
"One of the most important duties of the town supervisor is that of fiscal officer. The supervisor’s significant fiscal functions and responsibilities include:
2. Acting as treasurer and having custody of all moneys received from taxes or other public sources for a town public library, and expending library moneys only under the direction of the library trustees on properly authenticated vouchers (Education Law, Section 259(1)). Exception: library trustees may designate a separate library treasurer to be custodian of moneys given or bequeathed to the library and moneys received from taxes and other public sources (Education Law, Section 259(1))."
So it is very clear who to blame if funds should be diverted from the library budget to fill a gaping whole in town finances!

Right now I am looking over annual town audits from 2010 to 2013 trying to figure out how funds were spent in 2010 that were not authorized until a 2011 board resolution; were not spent from the fund that the town board approved; and were still being discussed in a 2013 annual audit. Almost $500,000 dollars. Mind boggling...I have a hunch, but I will wait to get all the facts.

P.S. I haven't forgotten about the lighting district report I want to share; but right now I am trying to get the bigger picture. Miscione was going to have the auditors give him a report of "true" cash in town fund accounts. I think it would be a good idea to share publicly with the taxpayers; it is not executive session material, Cully!.



Saturday, May 9, 2020

Something looks very, very odd...


...when you compare the total Street Lighting District (SL) vouchers approved by the town board to the total annual budgeted taxes collected from the several lighting districts in town...they don't comport.

I have another report on the lighting districts that I sent to Miscione a few weeks ago, but I haven't heard anything from him since (actually, I don't expect I will). I will post that report in a couple of days, but let's take a look at this spreadsheet first.

This is a two page report; you can read a larger pdf by clicking here.

For this spreadsheet, I used the Audited and approved Street Lighing (SL) Vouchers in the adopted town board minutes and the adopted town budgets for the Street Lighting Districts each year.

I was unable to finish the total of the Audited Street Lighing (SL) Vouchers for 2019 because town board minutes have shamefully been missing for months now.

On page 2 of my report I also included a couple of notes from some town board minutes that I thought would be good for clarification.

Where there are yellow highlighted zeros, no vouchers were found in the minutes for that month; where there are dashes (--); it appears that there was only one voucher for the month. Otherwise some lighting districts were paid using two vouchers in the same month as indicated as #1 and #2 for any month.

A few other conclusions could be made by reviewing this information:
  • the taxpayers in the lighting districts are being taxed for more than it cost the town to pay the monthly invoices for the street lighting in the special districts leaving one wonder what the "extra" money was used for;
  • National Grid invoices for the lighting districts are being paid late;
  • Sometimes, the town is "mistakenly" paying National Grid for the street lighting district out of an incorrect fund;
  • Not all invoices are presented to the town board for approval before they are paid;
 or;
  • maybe another fund is paying some of the invoices because there is no more money available in the lighting district funds.
  • Or any combination of the above.
However, no matter how you look at it, there are problems; that is a fact!

If you haven't caught on yet; it is quite apparent that there has been no substantial tax increase over the last few years because special districts are being overtaxed to pay shortfalls in the major funds. Depending on how many districts your property is in, some people are paying more than others..definitely contrary to NYS Town Law and General Municipal Law.

As a taxpayer, I expect the town board to be better stewards of taxpayer dollars; this b/s needs to stop.

There is plenty more...stay tuned!



Thursday, May 7, 2020

Town Lighting Districts...

...of which we have several covering different areas of the town.

Back on January 22, 2020, months prior to the town attorney's outburst labeling me as “a complainer” (not very professional, sir; you were way off base), I noticed some peculiarities in the December 2019 Supervisor’s Report.

Since Miscione had made it clear that he expected me to still be watching his back, I FOILed:
“copies of any purchase orders; vouchers; invoices; and copies of cancelled checks for General Wholetown account AA-5182-04 (Street Lighting) for the period June 2019 to December 2019."
On February 28, 2020, during a trip to the town offices, the town clerk handed my husband a stack of papers that supposedly were to satisfy my FOIL request. I briefly looked through them and wrote to Miscione:
“I just received my FOIL request for Street Lighting a/c AA-5182-04 for June thru Dec. 2019. I FOILed the information because I noticed that the monthly expenses seemed odd when I looked at the supervisor’s reports. Looking over the invoices, I believe I know why. Apparently, at some point, someone decided that account would just be used to pay a mish-mash of expenses.”
Miscione did a read receipt to my email, but I didn’t hear anymore after that and frankly, I was too busy to further pursue the issue.

That is until, out of the blue, three (3) months after my FOIL request, on April 21, 2020, I received an email from Miscione stating:
“I sent this to Lisa to review and I also sent this to Rick to review and we don’t have new lights in the parking lot at the Townhall. So if they recorded them wrong that’s why they’re in the wrong account.“
Is that a fact? O.K., now that got my attention. I decided to take a closer look at the stack of papers I received for my FOIL request on January 28th and found something in the pile that I actually didn’t expect.

I will get back to why I FOILed the information on account AA-5182-04 and what I found in a few days, but today let’s look at the information I received with that FOIL that I didn’t ask for in my request and didn't expect to receive.

That would be the vouchers to pay the General Wholetown lighting (AA fund) included with the Street Lighting vouchers for the town’s various lighting districts (SL funds); street lighting that is paid by residents who petitioned the town for street lighting in their area many years ago agreeing to pay the costs of said street lighting on their tax bill each year.

The thing that sparked my interest is that the street lighting district invoices, which are SL accounts, were paid from the same checking account as the General Wholetown AA-5182-04 invoices.

Knowing that the problem with the fire departments appeared to be because all the districts including the Willowvale pension fund is accounted for in the same account, I wondered if there is possibly a problem with the town's internal accounting for the lighting districts being maintained in the same town bank account as the General Wholetown lighting.

Let me start by saying, it is perfectly okay to include several funds in the same bank accounts as a way to collect increased interest earnings to benefit taxpayers; however, it is mandatory that the town's internal accounting records be maintained as separate accounts for each fund. I knew that was not the case with the fire departments which is why there are problems; it makes it easy to "move money around" that you don't necessarily have in each account to pay the bills.

Using the annual adopted budgets to ascertain the money budgeted to be collected from the taxpayers in each district and the annual financial statements prepared by outside auditors, I created a spreadsheet report going back to 2010, the year the budget was prepared by the Budget Officer (pre-Tyksinski) through 2018; the last town audit available.

A picture began to emerge…
  • In 2010, with a $7,781 fund balance, earned interest income of $149 was included as part of the fund’s assets.

    Yet, in 2011 and 2015, only $3 of interest was included; all other years that was no interest included as an asset of the fund even though the fund balance each year ranged anywhere from $5,234 to $54,285. How come? Why didn’t the auditors notice that even with over $50,000 of reported fund balance in 2017 no earned interest appeared to be received from the bank for that fund.

  • In 2010, there was no “accounts payable” included on the audit; yet from 2011 to 2018, there were accounts payable included under liabilities varying from a low of $8,623 to a high of $9,995. Why? What does that represent?

  • In 2010, there was $81 due to other funds. From 2011 to 2018, there was consistently $1,587 due to other funds each year.

    With fund balances reported of a low of $5,234 to a high of $54,285, why weren’t the reported “due to other funds” paid back and what fund(s) was this money due to in the first place?

  • One last question, how sure are the auditors that the cash shown in the lighting district financials each year is really in the bank to be used only to pay the monthly invoices from National Grid for the various districts' street lighting?

I have another spreadsheet that I created for the lighting districts that raises even more questions; I will get to that in another blog shortly.

I’ll end for now with an excerpt from the 2018 financial audit that is worth noting:
“The Supplementary Information, as listed in the table of contents, is the responsibility of management and was derived from and relates directly to the underlying accounting and other records used to prepare the basic financial statements. Such information has been subjected to the auditing procedures applied in the audit of the basic financial statements and certain additional procedures, including comparing and reconciling such information directly to the underlying accounting and other records used to prepare the basic financial statements or to the basic financial statements themselves, and other additional procedures in accordance with auditing standards generally accepted in the United States of America. In our opinion, the Supplementary Information, as listed in the table of contents is fairly stated, in all material respects, in relation to the basic financial statements as a whole.”
In other words, the audited information at the back of the annual financial statements (Supplementary Information) where you will find information relating to Fire; General Part Town; Mitigation; Highway Wholetown; Special Grant; Water; and Lighting is information prepared by the town with the auditors incorporating it into their work. So how come the auditors didn’t at least notice that earned interest income was missing from these funds in the information provided by the town?

But, the town attorney is on record saying he is o.k. with paying the auditors to oversee Miscione's version of town finances without a definite contract for a determinate amount of time with no budgeted provisions to pay the auditor's bill when it comes due and no language to “hold their feet to the fire” if they overlook other improprieties in the town's finances.

Sounds like a good plan to me, Cully... NOT!