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Audit faults Raquette Lake fire district

Monday, April 07, 2014 - Updated: 8:14 AM

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.

A board of five elected fire commissioners is responsible for overseeing the district's finances and safeguarding its assets. An appointed treasurer is responsible for receiving and distributing funds and preparing financial reports.

The audit found the treasurer submits a monthly report that includes payments and year-to-date expenditures. 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 matches the cash balance per the treasurer's records.

CHECKBOOK REGISTER

The treasurer maintains a checkbook as well as a computer spreadsheet. However, she did not record deposits in the checkbook nor maintain a running cash balance. Instead, the checkbook shows expenditures to date.

The treasurer could not reconcile bank statements or maintain a running cash balance in 2012, she said, because she did not have a starting checkbook balance when she took over the job in 2010.

Board of Fire Commissioners Chairman Louis Burke told the auditors the board reviews the checkbook 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.

CLAIMS FOR PAYMENT

At least three board members must sign each claim approved for payment before the treasurer may issue a check. In April 2013 the commissioners started to include the date they signed each claim.

Sixty-two claims totaling $153,258 were paid during the audit period. The auditor could not determine if the board audited 52 of them before they were paid, because they do not include the dates they were signed.

After the board started to include the dates there were "a couple of minor exceptions" where payments were made prior to audit and approval. However, all the claims examined appear to be for legitimate purposes.

NO ANNUAL REPORTS

The audit also found the treasurer had not filed an annual financial report with the state comptroller for the previous two years. The treasurer said she was stymied by computer problems.

Members of the Board of Fire Commissioners in addition to Burke are Tom Beckingham, James Blanchard, Stan Holowinski and Jim Regan. The Secretary / Treasurer is Kathryn Forsell.

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. Its 2013 budget was $89,040.

Note: For a longer version of this article go to www.hamiltoncountyexpress.com, click on 'News' and slide down to 'Long Lake / Raquette Lake.'

     

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