State: Barrington needs oversight
BARRINGTON--The Office of the New York State Comptroller released a report this month titled "Town of Barrington Financial Management," which audited the town's oversight and management of financial operations. The state examined the period from Jan. 1, 2015 to April 10, 2017, and also looked back to 2014 for trends.
The state report said the Barrington board did not provide sufficient oversight of the town's financial operations. The report states, "As a result of the lack of financial oversight, the board levied higher property taxes than necessary and its ability to effectively manage the town's finances was severely diminished."
The audit summarized the findings as follows: "As of Dec. 31, 2016, the unrestricted fund balance in the general town-wide fund was about $1.2 million, or 273 percent of the ensuing year's budget. The board did not adopt multiyear financial or capital plans to address long-term priorities. The board hired an accounting firm to perform bookkeeping and payroll duties without a written contract or proper oversight from the supervisor and the board did not perform annual audits of the books and records of officers or employees who received or disbursed money. Because the accounting firm kept the records off site, the town's financial records were not available for public inspection during reasonable times as required by law."
The town of Barrington is located in Yates County and has a population of approximately 1,700. The town is governed by an elected five-member board.
The report said, "From 2014 through 2016, the highway town-wide fund's unrestricted fund balance was maintained at reasonable levels. However, the general town-wide fund generated annual operating surpluses that increased total fund balance by approximately $395,000. This occurred primarily because of unrealistic budget estimates for revenues and expenditures over the last three years and a lack of policies for budgeting and fund balance."
The state recommended, "Use excess fund balance as a financing source for funding one-time expenditures, funding needed reserves and reducing real property taxes. Adopt comprehensive multiyear financial and capital plans that project operating and capital needs and financing sources for three to five years. Enter into a written contract with the [accounting firm] outlining the services to be performed including detailed language of each party's responsibilities. Annually audit, or cause an audit of, the books and records of all officers and employees who received or disbursed money during the preceding year. Audit results should be documented in the board minutes and include a description of the records reviewed and the procedures performed. Ensure that financial records are available at the town office."
The report also said, "The board has the responsibility to initiate corrective action. A written corrective action plan (CAP) that addresses the findings and recommendations in this report should be prepared and forwarded to our office within 90 days, pursuant to Section 35 of General Municipal Law."
Town Supervisor Frederick Wright responded to the audit with a written letter saying in part "We agree with your findings and will be working on our CAP."
"Your audit has served as a learning aid and will ultimately be a benefit to the overall foundation and annual functioning of the town," the letter concluded.
Town board meetings are held every fourth Wednesday of the month at the town hall, 4424 Old Bath Road.
The audit may be viewed at www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/towns/2017/barrington.htm.