St. Johnsville Urban Renewal Agency censured for non-disclosure

St. Johnsville’s Urban Renewal Agency is being censured by the state for keeping the public in the d

St. Johnsville’s Urban Renewal Agency is being censured by the state for keeping the public in the dark when it comes to its activities.

According to the state Authorities Budget Office, the censure becomes part of the public record and will have to be disclosed per federal securities law if the URA tries to borrow money for a project in the future.

The economic development agency in the western Montgomery County village is one of six public authorities out of roughly 500 statewide being criticized for ignoring state law.

A total of 29 authorities were cited as delinquent in getting their budgets and other operational details into the public eye in the Authorities Budget Office’s annual report issued this summer.

About 23 of them got back to the ABO, saying they intended to dissolve as inactive agencies or comply with the law, ABO director David Kidera said Wednesday.

The ABO then sent a letter in August warning the St. Johnsville URA to supply its annual reports and certified audits for 2009 and 2010 as well as a multiyear financial plan for 2011.

That letter was ignored, a September deadline passed and St. Johnsville was among six that were branded nonresponsive.

“This is the first time that we have actually, officially censured any authority for failing to comply with these reporting requirements,” Kidera said.

Often, he said, smaller agencies cite the fact that volunteers with little time and no pay are overtaxed by the reporting requirements. But that’s “no excuse,” he said, as these agencies have control over public money and projects and need to be accountable to the public.

“We tried to be as fair and as balanced as we could. At some point as board members, they have responsibility under the law,” Kidera said.

According to the most recent information available — a 2009 review report by the ABO — the St. Johnsville Urban Renewal Agency owns three vacant properties, two of which are a business park.

The URA didn’t have debt and didn’t administer grant programs routinely at the time of the ABO review. It had three bank accounts with a total balance of $72,000 and an outstanding loan of $5,600.

At the time of that audit, the URA hadn’t adopted bylaws describing members’ responsibilities and duties and didn’t have audits performed on its financials.

Kidera said it’s unclear if the URA is even still active.

According to a recently developed Facebook page for the village URA, the agency’s most recent project has been focused on raising money to buy a clock similar to one the village had in the 1930s .

Village Trustee Martin Callahan on Wednesday said the URA controls a roughly 80-acre parcel of land off Bridge Street that could be used for development, but said the village Board of Trustees could conceivably handle marketing that property to businesses instead of the URA.

Callahan said the possibility of dissolving the agency altogether and having the Village Board take over its tasks will likely be discussed in a future meeting.

Categories: Schenectady County

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