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What you need to know for 08/17/2017

Schenectady council accepts audit favorable to city

Schenectady council accepts audit favorable to city

For once, the city’s finances were easy.

For once, the city’s finances were easy.

The Schenectady City Council accepted the 2013 audit after just a few minutes’ discussion Monday, a far cry from the detailed questioning when the city was in deficit spending for years.

The city finished the year with a $1.4 million surplus in its $78 million budget, partly through savings from a new health plan, said Finance Commissioner Deborah DeGenova.

The only department to go over budget was the Police Department, she said. It spent $600,000 more than budgeted.

“That was largely driven by overtime,” she said.

She added that the critical audit from 2011, in which Cusack & Co. said the city would go “out of business” within a couple of years unless it changed its spending habits, was highly unusual.

“When I came to the city, that was the first time I’d seen a management letter with issues like that,” she said.

Now, the only serious issue facing the city in terms of its audit is its lack of an inventory of buildings, vehicles and other “fixed assets.”

That violates a basic financial management rule, so Cusack & Co. noted it — as they do every year.

DeGenova said an inventory would be costly and time-consuming.

“The city is weighing its options,” she said, adding, “It is not unusual for a municipality not to have a full inventory of its fixed assets.”

But the city has been embarrassed in the past when fixed assets — particularly unused vehicles — disappeared for months or years without anyone noticing. In one incident, Schenectady Assistant Police Chief William Grasso was fined for keeping a city-owned ATV at his house. When the matter was discovered in 2001, he was fined $750 and the ATV was returned to the city parks garage.

An inventory could prevent that from happening in the future.

In other business, the Police Department is soliciting public input on how it should use a federal grant.

The department is getting roughly $28,000 from the Department of Justice, said Assistant Chief Michael Seber. He said the police want to spend some of it on upgrades to the camera system throughout the city. The system needs new servers and hard drives, he said.

The total would cost $50,000 to $60,000, but he said the department would probably spend no more than $11,000 of the grant on the upgrades.

But first, he must collect public input for 30 days. He can only spend the grant after everyone has had a chance to say how the money should be used. “There’s certain things we can’t buy, like cars, and it’s not much money, and we have our own ideas,” he said.

But the department will listen, at least, he added.

The grant, and its spending restrictions, will be posted on the police website, www.schenectadyPD.com.

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