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Editorial: Ballston Spa audit should be released now

Editorial: Ballston Spa audit should be released now

Document may contain answers to village's financial woes in wake of treasurer's resignation
Editorial: Ballston Spa audit should be released now
Photographer: Shutterstock

Ballston Spa’s treasurer and deputy treasurer resign shortly after a draft of an audit of village finances by the state comptroller arrives in the mail.

Yet government officials see nothing wrong with keeping this audit a secret from the people it most affects — the taxpaying citizens of Ballston Spa.

Well, we see a lot wrong with it. And so should residents.

These are the residents who saw their local tax levy go up 17.5 percent this year.

The same citizens who saw their elected officials scramble to secure a short-term $600,000 revenue anticipation note just to cover village operating expenses for the year.

Maybe the state audit will shine a light on the problems facing the village and help officials decide their next course of action with regard to village finances.

Maybe it will establish a connection between the finances and the resignations.

But what’s clear is there’s no way the village should put anyone back in charge of its finances before residents learn what the audit says.

Yet Mayor Joe Romano says village officials hope to fill the vacant treasurer’s job quickly, even though the comptroller’s office says it won’t release the final version of the audit until October.

How can the village move forward with such a vital position without a full public airing and discussion of the audit?

The citizens right now don’t know what the comptroller’s office discovered about village finances and what recommendations, if any, it made to help the village get its finances on track.

In effect, village officials are depriving their citizens of possibly vital information needed to make an informed decision about a critical government position that affects the amount of their taxes and how that tax money is spent.

The village is apparently withholding the audit under a provision of the state Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) that allows governments to deny public disclosure of interagency documents.

But just because the village is entitled to keep the document a secret doesn’t necessarily mean it’s required to do so.

In general, unless a document contains material specifically prohibited by law from disclosure (which is unlikely in an audit), government officials may release it.

By the way, the fact that it’s a draft audit isn’t an excuse for withholding it, either. Drafts are public documents.

Before the village moves forward with hiring a new treasurer, it should release the full audit to the public.

The information it contains is potentially too important to be kept from the citizens. If village officials won’t release it, one might ask why won’t they?

What don’t they want their citizens to know?

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