Montgomery County

Amsterdam skipped state financial evaluation for last 3 years

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli this week released fiscal stress scores for 17 cities in New York

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli this week released fiscal stress scores for 17 cities in New York as part of the office’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring System, which examines the financial health of state municipalities and schools districts.

The city of Amsterdam, however, could not be tested because city officials failed to file their financial information with the state for the last three fiscal years.

The monitoring system gives an early warning of fiscal stress to local governments and school districts. Local officials use the information to identify areas where they can improve their financial health.

OSC looks at things like year-end surpluses and operating deficits to determine whether a municipality is in “significant fiscal stress,” “moderate fiscal stress” or “susceptible to fiscal stress.” There is also a “no designation” category, which is favorable.

The 17 cities in this latest report were examined because they have irregular fiscal years — ending between March 31 and July 31 — that do not conclude at the end of the calendar year as New York’s other 45 cities do, said Brian Butry, a spokesman for the Comptroller’s Office. Amsterdam, which has a fiscal year ending June 30, has failed to file their financial information with OSC going back to 2013 when the program began, he said.

Because of that, it has no prior designations, Butry said.

City Controller Matthew Agresta said the city has plans to file annual financial information with OSC from now on, and that shifting accounting practices led to the city’s failure to file in the past.

“Given the issues the city had between 2011 and 2013, all of our annual financial reports have been late,” he said.

Agresta said the city’s accounting software system implemented in 2011 was incompatible with its old system and led to several years of inaccurate record-keeping.

“It was not set up properly,” Agresta said. “Coupling that with a turnover in this office during that time period of three different controllers who basically didn’t have the time to get all of this sorted out and get it reconciled.”

Agresta, who became Amsterdam controller in November 2013 under former mayor Ann Thane, said his office has been playing catchup since then.

“We’ve had to reconcile three previous years of entire transactions to make them as accurate as we can so we can go on to the next year and get ourselves caught up,” he said.

Despite missing the yearly evaluations, Amsterdam has not eluded financial scrutiny. An audit conducted by OSC in 2014 found that “city officials failed to maintain accurate and complete accounting records” and identified “significant inaccuracies in … account balances as well as in revenues and expenditures.”

OSC looked at Amsterdan’s records from June 2011 to March 2013 and recommended the city ensure their accounting records for operating funds and capital projects are complete, accurate and closed at fiscal year-end. The audit also recommended city officials attend training and refer to the Local Government Management Guide for assistance with developing future budgets.

“The January 2014 audit specifically addressed significant inaccuracies in their accounting,” Butry said on Thursday. “The only way we were able to see that is we went in and did an audit of their financial statements.”

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