Amherst officials trade jabs over state audit - The Buffalo News

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Amherst officials trade jabs over state audit

A new state audit criticizes Amherst for how it accounts for certain reserve funds and for failing to effectively manage its fleet of vehicles.

Amherst Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein feels the report released late last week from the State Comptroller’s Office raises relatively minor issues.

But this being election season, the audit has taken on a more political tone.

Council Member Mark A. Manna, who’s running against Weinstein in November’s election, on Monday tried to use the audit to poke holes in Weinstein’s administration.

The two exchanged political jabs over the audit at Monday’s Amherst Town Board meeting.

“We rely on accurate record keeping in order to make a budget,” said Manna, a Democrat, “and I think the audit from the State Comptroller’s Office raises red flags.”

“There’s not money missing and there’s nothing wrong with our financial statements,” said Weinstein, the Republican. “They critiqued our financial process and procedures and we work on our process and procedures all the time.”

“The bottom line is the audit is not that bad for us,” he said.

The audit from the state Comptroller’s Office criticizes certain aspects of the town’s financial activities covering the period between Jan. 1, 2011 to May 8, 2013.

Specifically, it addresses money left over from town capital projects. Those funds – and the accumulated interest – should be put into a reserve fund to pay down the debt, auditors said.

Instead, the audit said, Amherst Comptroller Darlene A. Carroll maintains a separate record that indicates when a project was completed, the debt proceeds and interest earned and the amount of reserves in each fund that should be used to pay debt service during the next fiscal year.

“This resulted in more than $2 million remaining idle since 2004 that should have been used for debt service,” the report stated.

“As a result of not appropriately accounting for certain restricted monies, the town’s tax levy may have been higher than necessary and the town’s financial records may not properly reflect the balances of these accounts,” the report said.

In a letter to the state Comptroller’s Office, Carroll said some of the criticism in the report is misleading or inaccurate.

“The town does not use a debt service fund,” Carroll said in the letter. “However, unspent proceeds from bond of BAN [Bond Anticipation Note] proceeds are properly reserved on the audited financial statements. Our auditors have never had an issue with the way this has been handled.”

As for town vehicles, the audit said Amherst has no program to manage the fleet or policies and procedures to determine if acquiring new or replacement vehicles is cost effective.

The town also doesn’t maintain any consistent repair, maintenance, usage or fuel records for its fleet, according to the audit, which sampled 81 vehicles from the police, highway and engineering departments.

Manna questioned whether the town was going to take the corrective action recommended by the state Comptroller’s Office.

“It’s going to be done,” the supervisor said.


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