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State audit of finances to be released next month

The much-anticipated state audit of the town's finances is not out yet but is expected to be released in July.

A spokeswoman for the state Comptroller's Office confirmed last week that the audit of town finances conducted last year -- a review at the heart of a budget controversy last November -- is on schedule and should be sent to town officials sometime next month.

Town Board members requested the examination of town financial records and practices because of disagreement about the amount of money the town had available to pay bills.

An independent audit found the town was borrowing to pay for routine operating expenses.

Nicole Hanks, deputy press secretary for Thomas P. DiNapoli in Albany, responded to questions amid rumors that town officials had received a draft copy of the audit but were withholding the results.

"No, it has not yet been released but it is expected in July," Hanks said. "It's right on schedule for an audit."

Most municipal audits come out six to 12 months from when they begin, she said.

When the audit is completed, the draft version will be sent to town officials, who will be allowed 30 days to respond to the findings by adding comments or making adjustments to financial procedures. The comptroller's office will include those additions to the audit report and release the final version a few weeks afterward.

The discussion of town finances hit a boiling point last November, when board members were dealing with the 2010 budget -- the last budget put together by former Supervisor Timothy E. Demler.

Along with the request for a state audit, officials hired independent auditor Drescher & Malecki to investigate town finances and provide more immediate findings.

Thomas P. Malecki reported during a presentation last December that the town was spending a lot more money than it was taking in. He advised the board to stop "mortgaging the future."

He was most critical of Demler's attempt to budget $400,000 in revenue from a land sale that never happened. The revenue was supposed to come from the sale of 11 acres of town land on Witmer Road. The board backed out of the sale last year before the budget was drawn.

Malecki also said Demler incorrectly budgeted $1.2 million as revenue in the sewer department budget, an error the former supervisor acknowledged but downplayed.

The end result was a $640,000 hole in the highway department line for this year.

Demler wanted to lay off three employees, including two highway workers, reallocate some sales tax revenue, use the general fund surplus and reduce other spending, including for equipment repairs, to make up for the shortfall.

Other board members saw the plan as insufficient and created a highway tax of 82 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to plug the gap. The tax adds about $164 a year to a home valued at $200,000.

Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe and Town Attorney Robert O'Toole said they had not heard anything yet about the release of the state audit. Cliffe said an audit by town budget director Ed Mongold is expected to be completed about the same time.


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