BENSON - An audit of the Town of Benson's finances for 2010-12 by the NYS Office of the State Comptroller found just one problem.
It says the town board is not able to monitor actual revenues and expenditures against budgeted estimates throughout the year because the town supervisor does not maintain timely accounting records. "As of December 2012, the supervisor had not made postings to the accounting records since March 2012," the audit says.
Without current account records the supervisor could not prepare the periodic financial reports necessary for the board to make budgetary amendments as needed.
In 2010 the general and highway funds showed operating deficits of $34,911 and $33,694, respectively. The two funds had surpluses in 2011.
The operating deficits have resulted in a decline in the level of fund balance in each fund and an overall decline in the town's financial health, the audit says.
Furthermore, the combined cash balances for the two funds declined from about $145,000 at the beginning of 2010 to about $95,000 at the end of 2011, a decrease of some 34 percent. The audit projects that once the 2012 accounts are brought up to date they will show the town ended the year with about $95,000 in cash again.
DOWN TO $55,000?
The auditors also reviewed the 2013 budget and found it similar to 2012. "As such, the highway fund will likely realize another small operating deficit," the report says. "In addition, town officials appropriated approximately $40,000 in combined fund balance.
"Assuming actual results ... are in line with budgeted estimates and the town uses the fund balance that was appropriated, cash will decrease to about $55,000."
The audit recommends the supervisor maintain current accounting records and provide the board with up-to-date periodic financial reports; and that the board make necessary budget modifications throughout the year to stabilize the town's financial status and reverse the financial decline.
Town officials generally agree with the recommendations and plan to take corrective action.
In her written response to the audit Supervisor Ermina Pincombe agreed her postings were not up-to-date, but noted, "The audit was being conducted at the start of a serious illness for me that nearly proved fatal."
Pincombe pointed out the board had used surplus funds to balance the budget rather than increase taxes. She also noted the rise in the inflation rate and elimination of federal and state revenue sharing affected budgeting.
Pincombe said another revenue problem could be laid at the highway superintendent's feet. "The Highway Department is the only department capable of generating revenue, but often our highway superintendent failed to adequately charge Hamilton County for work done under the Hamilton County Highway Maintenance contract," she wrote.
Highway revenues ranged from $9,358 in 2006 to $20,777 in 2003. Other years brought in $12,282 in 2001, $9,368 in 2006, $16,699 in 2008, $9,517 in 2010 and $15,775 in 2012.
Pincombe wrote, "Now that two board members are 'helping' the highway superintendent keep current with his records, the winter of 2012-13 saw [highway] revenues of over $25,000."
Pincombe also noted, "There is no money missing and no errors in the bank records."
Deputy Supervisor David Pincombe has sought technical help from the county to finish Benson's 2013 Annual Financial Report. Councilman Robert Cox has sought help from the Office of the State Comptroller.
The board is trying to put together the report for 2012 as well as that for 2013.
-- The town will hire a bookkeeper starting Jan. 1, 2014.
-- With any increase in the property tax levy for the 2014 budget capped at 1.6 percent, the board voted to draw up a proposed local law that would allow it to exceed the cap with a vote of 60 percent or more.
-- The Adirondack Park Agency has approved the town's plan to install a dry hydrant. An easement to cross the Webber property has been drawn up.
-- Town Assessor James C. Abbot has been appointed to a new six-year term as sole tax assessor, to run from Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2019.
Editor's Note: 'Other Business' is based on draft minutes of Benson Town Board meetings as provided by Town Clerk Jeanne Cox.