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Monday, December 22, 2014
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RL fire district is criticized in audit

Sunday, April 06, 2014 - Updated: 6:00 PM

By CRISTINE MEIXNER

Editor

RAQUETTE LAKE -- An audit of the Raquette Lake Fire District shows that although it cannot account for its money, none appears to be missing.

In a report issued March 21 the Office of the State Comptroller says the district’s financial records for Jan. 1, 2012 through Sept. 30, 2013 are useless. Its 2013 budget was $89,040.

A board of five elected fire commissioners oversees the district. It is responsible for overseeing financial activities and safeguarding assets and resources.

An appointed treasurer acts as chief fiscal officer. The treasurer is responsible for the receipt and custody of district funds, for distributing and accounting for those funds and for preparing monthly and annual financial reports.

MONTHLY REPORTS

The audit found the treasurer submits a monthly report that includes payments and year-to-date expenditures and compares budgeted expenditures by individual budget line item to totals spent from each line item to date. However, the reports do not include bank statements or reconciliations.

As a result the board cannot know the amount of cash on hand and if the bank balance reconciles to the cash balance per the records maintained by the treasurer.

The report says the board should ensure that monthly reports include revenues, expenditures and reconciled cash balances.

CHECKBOOK REGISTER

The treasurer maintains a manual checkbook register as well as a computer spreadsheet program. However, she did not record deposits in the checkbook register nor maintain a running cash balance.

“We found that, although there were month-end balances recorded in the checkbook register for 2013, the balances were actually a total of expenditures to date, as opposed to a current cash balance, so … bank statements could not be reconciled to a cash balance per the checkbook register,” the report says.

The treasurer told the auditor she did not perform bank reconciliations nor maintain a running cash balance in the checkbook register in 2012 because she did not have a starting checkbook balance from when the previous treasurer left office in 2010.

The report recommends the treasurer reconcile the checkbook with bank statements each month.

Board of Fire Commissioners Chairman Louis Burke told the auditors the board reviewed the checkbook register during budget preparation in September and he reviews it randomly during the year, looking for checks written to unknown vendors and amounts that do not appear reasonable.

The report recommends the board also determine if deposits are recorded and if they match deposit slips, and make sure a running cash balance is maintained. Also, it says, the board should make sure the treasurer reconciles bank statements with the checkbook register and compare the cash balances to the monthly reports.

CLAIMS FOR PAYMENT

Board members sign each claim approved for payment and each must have the signature of three of the five board members before the treasurer may issue a check. In April 2013 the board members started to include the date they signed.

Sixty-two claims totaling $153,258 were paid during the audit period. The auditor could not determine if 52 the claims (84 percent) were audited by the board prior to payment, because members did not include the date with their signatures.

After the board started to include the date of approval on claims there were a couple of minor exceptions where payments were made prior to audit and approval. All the claims examined appear to be for legitimate purposes.

“We also traced the 62 checks from the bank statements to the checkbook register and invoices to determine if all the checks were supported and for valid district purposes. We found no exceptions,” the report says.

NO ANNUAL REPORTS

The audit also found the treasurer has not filed an annual financial report with the Office of the State Comptroller since the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2010.

The treasurer said two computers that held the annual financial report filing software stopped working, and she was unable to upload the necessary software on the district’s new computer. She also said she was not familiar with the software and would require guidance on how to file the reports.

Burke made arrangements in June 2013 for the treasurer of a neighboring fire district to assist the treasurer in preparing the annual financial reports; however, as of November 2013, the treasurer had not met with this person.

The report says the board should ensure that the treasurer files the annual financial report with the Office of the State Comptroller within 60 days after the close of each fiscal year.

THE BOARD RESPONDS

In a letter dated Feb. 28, district officials say, “As of the next monthly meeting the treasurer report will include a new spreadsheet showing revenues and expenditures coded to numerical account codes.

“The treasurer is [now] reconciling the bank balances on each monthly statement [and] the board will initiate audits of the treasurers’ records more frequently.”

Also, “The board will file annual financial reports...”

RLFD is a corporation of the State of New York, distinct and separate from the towns of Arietta and Long Lake where it provides fire protection.

     

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