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OUTSIDE AUDIT OF PEPSI CENTER SOUGHT

Amherst needs an independent audit of the Pepsi Center to see how much it actually costs taxpayers to operate, according to Council Member Shelly Schratz.

She filed a resolution for today's Town Board meeting calling for the financial inquiry and urging officials to create an enterprise fund to operate the popular recreation facility once the true costs are determined.

Amherst's recent budget problems demand that officials examine the operations of revenue-raising facilities like the Pepsi Center and town golf courses, according to Schratz.

"I love the Pepsi Center. . . . I think it's great, a wonderful asset to the town; but you need to know what that asset is costing the town," Schratz said.

But Supervisor Susan J. Grelick criticized Schratz's resolution, calling it "beating a dead horse."

Grelick also contends the audit is not needed because the town's auditors already examine the Pepsi Center's books. Also, new accounting standards will require the town to acknowledge all of its expenses, or, in other words, "the true costs," she said.

That may be, but Schratz is the second board member to call for full disclosure of financial operations at the Pepsi Center recently. The other is Council Member William L. Kindel, who has been raising questions for more than a year. "I want to get a full disclosure. I want to get a profit-and-loss statement that's worth the paper it's written on," he said.

Kindel filed a Freedom of Information request recently to confirm reports in The Buffalo News that town maintenance workers have been working at the Pepsi Center -- even though their salaries are not included in the town's costs for the facility.

Officials insist the town's subsidy for the center is limited to $400,000 a year, but The News has found that the real figure is more than double that amount, because officials do not count more than $410,000 in salaries and overtime paid to town workers who maintain the facility. "I confirmed that 12 part- and full-time town employees . . . work at the Pepsi Center," Kindel said.

In addition, Kindel said, Delaware North, which operates the center, also has its own maintenance staff, costing an additional $602,000 in salaries.

And, according to Schratz: "I truly believe that it is our responsibility with the tax increases that we're facing that we explore facilities such as the Pepsi Center and the golf courses . . . to find the true cost so that we charge appropriately."

e-mail: tdolan@buffnews.com

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