A State Comptroller’s office audit of Town of Barrington records concludes that town officials did not provide sufficient oversight of the town’s financial operations, resulting in property tax bills that were higher than necessary.
Town officials say they will make changes to their procedures and budget process to correct the issues that were noted in the recent audit by officials from the Rochester Comptroller’s office. Auditors examined the town’s financial management between Jan. 1, 2015 and April 10, 2017, looking back to 2014 to identify trends.
The audit says the lack of a policy for the level of fund balance to be maintained and no multi-year financial or capital plans resulted in an unrestricted fund balance of $1.2 million. Those funds could be used to lower real property taxes and help with cash flow, pay for unanticipated expenses, or set aside in reserves for future costs, say the state officials.
The audit says the town had an unrestricted fund balace of $859,265 in 2014, $1.07 million in 2015, and $1.2 million in 2016. The town underestimated revenues by $352,000 from 2014 to 2016, and overestimated health insurance and town hall expenditures by $73,000.
The town’s 2017 budgeted spending for all funds total approximately $1.6 million, funded primarily by local property taxes.
The auditors say because the town hired an outside firm, without a written contract, to handle the town’s accounting, proper oversight was not included in the procedures. Also, since the firm operated off-site, the town’s financial records were not available for public inspection. Thus, the board’s ability to monitor the town’s financial operations was diminished.
The audit recommendations for the board include:
• Adopt budgets with realistic estimates for revenues and expenditures
• Develop policies for budgeting and fund balance to meet the town’s needs
• Use excess fund balance for funding one-time expenditures, funding needed reserves, and reducing property taxes
• Adopt multi-year financial and capital plans
• Enter into a written contract with the accounting firm outlining services
• Annually audit the books and records
The audit also recommends the supervisor:
• Ensure financial records are available at the town office.
• Ensure monthly reports detail receipts, disbursements, bank reconciliations, and cash balances
• Certify payrolls
• Ensure the firm does not perform functions that are the vested responsibility of the supervisor.
Supervisor Fred Wright responded to the chief examiner in Rochester, agreeing to make the corrections needed. “Your audit has served as a learning aid and will ultimately be a benefit to the overall foundation and annual functioning of the Town,” he wrote.
The audit can be found at the Comptroller’s website, www.osc.state.ny.us.