BALLSTON – The Ballston Lake Fire District paid $700 each to three firefighters in 2015 for unearned service credits, according to an audit by the Office of the New York State Comptroller. [Read more…]
BALLSTON — Joann Bouchard, the supervisor’s confidential secretary and bookkeeper for 12 years, was rehired to her position after a bitter dispute back in November, 2011. [Read more…]
BALLSTON – The Town of Ballston has been notified from the New York State Department of Homeland Security that it is moving ahead to sanction the town for its failure to complete a OMB A-133 audit, also known as a single audit. [Read more…]
BALLSTON — The Town of Ballston has had its share of financial challenges over the years, but according to an audit recently released by the state Comptroller’s Office accounting in the town’s water districts might be foremost among them.
Water service in Ballston is complicated, with many extensions, varying rates and uneven billing across several districts. The Town Board is trying to implement a water district consolidation to solve the problems.
The state Comptroller’s audit stated the Town’s accounting reports and records were not properly maintained. As a result, ofﬁcials have not received the accurate and timely information necessary to evaluate the water fund’s ﬁscal health and take appropriate corrective action.
The Town reported a fund balance of $520,771 in its water fund at the end of fiscal year 2011, but the audit found the water fund balance was overstated by at least $271,264. The $242,581 of capital project funds recorded in Water District 2 accounted for the majority of the overstatement, the audit said.
At the end of 2011, the Town recorded a fund balance of $285,936 for District 2, the audit found. However, after all adjustments, the District’s fund balance was actually a deﬁcit of $209,317.
“The Board’s action to appropriate $346,447 in water district fund balance as a revenue source in the 2012 budget further compromised the ﬁscal health of the water fund, because these money were not available.” the audit states. The Town’s ﬁnancial records are complete only through March 2012, and records were not maintained in a timely manner, the audit found.
In addition, the Comptroller’s Office found weaknesses in internal controls over the billing and collection of water user charges.
As of the end of the Comptroller’s Office ﬁeldwork in June 2012, the Board had not taken corrective action to address the deﬁciencies identiﬁed.
It is this last part of the report that board member Bill Goslin had an issue with.
“A lot of things they found in the audit, I published prior to the audit,” Goslin said. “Many of the mistakes were known to the town. Most of the things you see in the audit were identified.”
Goslin said none of the town’s finances were published.
“In my opinion, you should have finances published,” he said. “You won’t see any financial information published over the last five or six years in the town.”
Goslin’s concerns led him to contact the state comptroller’s office and ask for an audit, he said.
“I wrote my concerns down and sent them to the auditor,” Goslin said. “All of my concerns ended up being true.”
Further complicating the situation was the firing of former bookkeeper Joann Bouchard in the fall of 2011 by Supervisor Patti Southworth. Both Southworth and Goslin agree that was the beginning of the town’s financial difficulties.
After Bouchard was fired, the town board eliminated the position of bookkeeper, forcing Southworth to perform all accounting duties herself.
Southworth claimed the environment at Town Hall became toxic after Bouchard was fired.
“The board wouldn’t give me anything I needed, they wouldn’t work with me,” she said. “They were not supplying me with the tools that I needed to do my job.”
Southworth said Goslin’s claim that he had no access to financial records was not true.
“They were receiving reports,” Southworth said. “They failed to take my advice time after time.”
Although a new bookkeeper has since been hired, there were over 18 months of financial records to reconcile.
Southworth said the audit took place during the time the new bookkeeper was being trained and records were admittedly not up to date.
In response to the audit’s report of inadequate supervision on the part of the supervisor, Southworth said the Town Board didn’t give her access to the town accounting program because the board refused to pay for the extra license.
“I couldn’t independently check the (prior) bookkeeper because I didn’t have access to the accounting program without her being present,” Southworth said. “I had no independent access to the accounting program.”
In spite of the accusations and finger-pointing, both Goslin and Southworth agree a reconciliation and rectification of the accounting problems is overdue.
“The question is, where do we go from here,” Goslin said. “I’m proud to report that we had an excellent meeting last night (May 7).”
Goslin met with Southworth, board member Kelly Stewart and current town bookkeeper John Gaetani to discuss what needs to be done, he said.
“We all sat down as a group and we looked at all the financial items in the town,” Goslin said. “It was a great meeting.”
Although it was important for everyone to understand how the town got to its present condition, determining how the town will handle it is more important, Goslin said. He called the meeting a financial workshop and said the town is going to have them on a regular basis.
“We’re going to work on all of the financial issues related to the town,” Goslin said.
That includes the corrective action the town has to submit in response to the audit, as well as procedures and reporting.
“I think we’re all in agreement that we don’t like what happened in the past,” Goslin said. “We’re going to move forward and that’s the most important thing.”
Goslin conceded that the audit did not find any money missing, but there was a lot of room for improvement.
“As long as we’re working on that improvement, that is all I am looking for,” he said. “I think everyone is on board and I’m really optimistic. It’s really all about where we are a year from now. We’ve had issues with the finances but no money is missing.”
Southworth agreed the meeting was very positive.
“I think we did have a very productive meeting last night,” she said. “We brought out what needs to be corrected, how that’s going to work and try to set up priorities.”
Southworth said she was cautiously optimistic. Goslin agreed new procedures will be set up, including disciplinary procedures if necessary, she said.
Some of the procedures will include cash flow procedures, separation of duties, more transparency and better accountability.
“We’ll have to see it that will happen,” Southworth said. “I’m hopeful that his (Goslin’s) word is true and we are going to try and fix the situation.”
NYS Comptroller representative Brian Butry said the Comptroller’s Office does 400 audits a year and it was not uncommon to find issues like Ballston had.
“It’s clear that the town needs to put internal oversight in place and improve accounting records,” Butry said. “Part of the issue was lack of information. This allowed the discrepancy to be built up. The problem [grew] over time and the longer town officials were unaware of the problem, the longer it built.”
To contact the reporter on this story email marci@theballstonjournal
To contact the editor on this story email kevin@theballstonjournal
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BY JOE TEMPLIN
Danger Will Robinson! Danger! Danger! The IRS has found mistakes on your tax return and is coming for you! Danger! Danger!
OK, so Robbie the Robot isn’t going to warn you before you do something stupid and call down an audit on your head. Luckily I will, because I’m such a good guy. You can buy me a beer later for it. Or better yet five, because I’ll give you five red flags the IRS loves about as much as the bull in the Bugs Bunny cartoons.
Wrong Form. It happens more often than you would think. People use the wrong Schedule (as of last year they went up to L, for “Lots of Paperwork”) and the alarm bells go off. IRS loves this one because it means you did it on your own and don’t know what you’re doing. Thus they can squeeze a few extra drops of blood from the stone. At least double-check www.irs.gov to get the right form of torture before you spend hours doing the wrong form. Reserve that self flagellation for the DMV. If you have anything other than the most boring return in the world you should consider a professional preparer, as the tax code is changed on average as often as a three-year-old.
Mis-claiming Dependents. Yes, we all love our kids. But you can’t get a deduction for them when they are 32, unless they live with you for a reason more than they don’t want to move their Boba Fett collection from your basement. Quick rule of thumb, if you don’t want to have to go through the IRS’s flow chart you can deduct them if you pay for everything because they are a student not in graduate school, or have a medical reason that they must be in your car, for a reason other than addiction to Freetos and lack of social skills. Dependents that sometimes get overlooked are parents living with you or adult sons and daughters with special-needs, and you can, and should, take these deductions.
Failure to Report ALL Income. The Department of the Treasury has the right to tax all income, from whatever source, unless specifically excluded. This means you have to list all income so they get their piece. This includes rents, gambling winnings, and tips to name a few areas that often get overlooked. This one can get you into a LOT of trouble.
Forgetting to sign and date forms. This one is just plain dumb. If you get strip searched because of this there is no one to blame but yourself. It’s like the two guys in the movie “Snatch” who rob a place and can’t push the door open because it opens inward, then take off their masks and are seen by the security cameras before their buddy opens the door and lets them out. OK, Not really. But I love that scene for what it embodies: the best laid plans of mice and men and all that. So sign and date the blankety blank forms. If not, you deserve what you get as a fee for foolishness.
Wrong Social Security Number. Unless you are a criminal attempting to steal from the government while in prison already, or are not supposed to be in the country (Mr. Articheeko from Hobart College?) then you have your very own Social Security number to use. Don’t call out the Spanish Inquisition because you transposed two digits. Seriously. this is one of the more common red flags and just makes me go “Huhh?”
So there you have it boys and girls, five of the most common red flags that are easily addressed when it comes to taxes. Since this year the deadline is the April 18, instead of the April 15, why not take an extra few minutes to double check your return before you too end up lost in space.
Joe Templin is on Twitter as @MillenialMoney and the author of “Financial Mistakes of New College Grads.”
BY DAN SABBATINO
Superintendent of Schools Joseph Dragone said the fiscal responsibly of the district has helped protect residents investment in education and garnered them high marks with the state comptroller’s office, at the Wednesday, Jan. 5, meeting of the school board.
He said an official from the New York State Comptroller’s office described the district’s audit as “flawless.”
“We appreciate the comptroller recognizing and reaffirming the hard work of the school district on cost savings and fiscal accountability,” said Dragone. “Given the anticipated budget challenges we will face in the coming months, we are proud to reassure our district residents that we maximize their investment in education. ”
The audit began in April, covering a three year period focusing on energy consumption and special education, according to information from New York State Comptoller Tom DiNapoli’s Office.
All of the auditing was done in-house.
“It’s very uncommon not to have to submit a collective action plan,” Dragone said.
He said in 2007, the district had received a good standing from the comptroller, even receiving the gold star for internal controls, something only 33 other districts were able to boast.
“We pay really close attention to all the programmatic pieces as well as all the operational pieces,” Dragone said.
The district has close to 4,300 students and 700 employees, according to the audit. It gained specific praise for its attention to meeting with organizational heads, department heads and experts on how to cut costs.
From September 2007 to August 2009, more than $600,000 in saving were realized by using cogeneration units to conserve energy, although maintenance of the units and the upfront costs cut into the savings. Overall, the district was able to realize saving by implementing other efficiency practice along with the new energy units.
The district was also touted for its ability to efficiently use special education aides, according to information form the audit. Students with similar disabilities and needs were schedules with classes together to more effectively use the time of the aides available.
The district reduced the number of aides by four, between 2008 and 2010, saving $95,000.
Over an extended period of time, the district could realize savings close to $300,000 by reducing the number of aides, according to the report.
“We appreciate the comptroller recognizing and reaffirming the hard work of the school district on cost savings and fiscal accountability.” Further, “Given the anticipated budget challenges we will face in the coming months, we are proud to reassure our district residents that we maximize their investment in education. “
-Richard Hallet contributed to this report.