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Village audit finds misstatement of $24,000


MASSENA - An auditor hired by the village has urged the Board of Trustees to be “vigilant” in reviewing their financial statements as the municipality works through a transition of personnel in the treasurer’s office.

Auditor Carl Seyfarth of the Malone-based firm Seyfarth & Seyfarth pointed out the village has several employees in new positions, including Treasurer Julie Sharlow. She was promoted to that post in September following the retirement of Daniel E. Case. Lisa Tyo will be moving into the senior account clerk position to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Laura Gagne.

“At times like this, when you have big changes in the staffing (and) most people are going through a learning curve, you are going to want to be vigilant in monitoring what’s going on,” Mr. Seyfarth told the village board.

“When you get your monetary reports, ask questions about them, and if there’s anything that doesn’t make sense, follow up on it.”

In his audit, Mr. Seyfarth’s reported a misstatement of approximately $24,500, due to the omission of accrued interest on a serial bond issued in August 2011, as the only citation.

The auditor also reiterated a previous concern about a lack of segregation of duties in the office.

“... the same individuals that open mail also have access to cash receipts and accounts receivable records. Individuals with access to cash perform the bank reconciliations. The employees that prepare disbursements also have purchasing power. The individuals who approve time also distribute payroll checks to employees. The lack of segregation of duties can lead to fraud and misuse of assets,” according to the audit.

But the auditors acknowledged the small size of the office staff might mean a perfect set of controls was not possible.

Mr. Seyfarth said the village was in good shape with its finances and urged more experienced village officials to work with the newer employees.

“I encourage you guys to give (newer employees) as much support as you can, make sure they have proper training,” Mr. Seyfarth said. “Especially at the end of the year when it’s time for your year-end quotas.”

Mr. Seyfarth also recommended that the village update its software, particularly in the area of backing up its electronic date files, in the event of a hard-drive crash.

The audit Mr. Seyfarth presented to the board revealed the village generated more revenue than it had budgeted. In spring 2011, the village budgeted $1.459 million for the 2011-12 fiscal year, but ended up generating $1.669 million. The village board is anticipating revenue of $1.569 million for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

The audit stated the village’s general fund has a healthy fund balance, but noted that the fund balance is shrinking and will not be available to balance budgets in the future. The village utilized $607,566 of its fund balance last year to offset property tax increases, and after that appropriation had an available fund balance of $838,413 entering the current fiscal year.

The audit pointed out there was a 0.6 percent increase in village’s general fund for the 2012-13 fiscal year, totalling $8,683,670. The increase was largely due to wage increases of 1.5 percent for employee contracts that expired May 31, 2012, and a 17 percent increase in spending on retirement.

The audit suggested the village will face difficult budgeting processes in the future. “All indications are that future fiscal years will be equally as trying (as last year),” the audit reads.

An audit from last year projected water and sewer rate increases of 5 percent with the adoption of the 2011-2012 budget, in an effort to avoid a large rate increase in the future, according to the audit. However, the village board later decided not to hike its rates.

Mayor James F. Hidy said he was pleased with the results of the audi, and commended the work of former Village Treasurer Case for his meticulous work.

“In the years (Mr. Case) has been with us, the village has always been in good shape, and with (current treasurer) Julie (Sharlow), I know we’ll continue to be in good shape,” Mr. Hidy said.

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