Ballston’s accounting reports and records were not properly maintained for its water fund financial operations, according to a new audit from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office.
The audit alleges that own officials did not receive accurate and timely information that would allow them to assess the true standing of the water fund. Because of the inaccuracies, the audit found that the town reported a fund balance of $520,771 at the end of the 2011 fiscal year, which was twice the actual balance.
Additionally, the audit found there aren’t proper internal controls over billing and collection of water usage charges.
The audit estimated the town could have generated an additional $22,500 in revenue with proper procedures.
The audit reviewed the fund’s fiscal health and operations from Jan. 1, 2010, to Dec. 31, 2011.
In response to the audit, Ballston Supervisor Patti Southworth, wrote, “It is important to note that all taxpayer money has been accounted for and there was no fraud or misappropriation of funds.”
She goes on to say the town’s bookkeeper was resistant to change after Southworth took office in 2008 and wanted new practices. That bookkeeper was fired in November 2011, but Southworth said she had to take over the duties because the Town Board wouldn’t let her hire a replacement.
Noting other obstacles to some of her ideas, Southwroth wrote, “The Town Board has consistently failed to provide the Supervisor with the authority to obtain necessary staffing and tools to perform the responsibilities of the position.”
Part of the state’s response to Southworth noted that ultimately she was responsible for proper records, because she is the town’s chief financial officer. “If a bookkeeper is appointed to maintain the records, it is still the Supervisor’s responsibility to review the records and ensure that they are properly maintained,” was the state’s response. “The Supervisor should have ensured that she had access to the accounting records to provide adequate oversight.”
In response to the audit, Town Board member William Goslin, a Republican, said in a news release that the town has a lot of work to do to correct its accounting issues. He has been a consistent critic of Southworth, a member of the Independence party.
“This audit is the first external look into the financial records maintained by Supervisor Southworth,” Goslin said in the statement. “The Supervisor has not provided up-to-date financial records to the board for the past 18 months. The board feels that any future reporting would be highly suspect knowing that the water fund was overstated by hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
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