Town Board Addresses Financial Woes

New Paltz Town Supervisor Susan Zimet held a special board meeting on Thursday, Aug. 30 to discuss the recent release of a state Comptroller’s Office audit of town finances.

The town finances in the audit are the remnants of Toni Hokanson’s term as town supervisor. The 2011 budget, which took eight months to put together, has caused Zimet grief over the future of the town’s finances, she said.

“It’s been incredibly distressing in terms of the financial situation in regards to what we were left with,” Zimet said at the town board meeting. “Since I’ve gotten into office in January, we’ve been spending so much time looking back in terms of collecting revenues.”

According to an Aug. 31 article in the Kingston Daily Freeman, there were three budget deficits listed in the audit. Water District 3 went from having a 2008 budget of  $5,770 to a 2010 budget of  $18,783.

Water District 4 had a $2,781 for 2008 that rose to $18,200 in 2010. Sewer
District 6’s budget in 2008 was $10,144, but rose to $61,635 in 2010.

The article also said one of the issues found in the audit was the town “using general fund money without being properly reimbursed by the districts.”

Town Council Member Kitty Brown said at the meeting that she had anticipated the report to be this distressing.

“When I read this, it was not unexpected,” Brown said.

With budget deficits aside, Zimet also said at the town board meeting that since so much time has been used to go back and look at previous finances, the town board is trying to keep on top of $50,000 given in a state grant for consolidation, along with $13,000 from a grant with the Open Space Committee.

Zimet said she is concerned about other money that may be out there that she and the board do not know about. She said at the meeting that there is a lot of work to be done to get the finances back on track.

Another cause of concern for Zimet and other town board members was that minutes from meetings during the past two years had not been compiled in an organized manner.

“Because of the lack of timely board minutes being available, town officials and the public do not have a clear understanding of what took place at board meetings and have no assurance that town operations and moneys are being properly managed,” auditors said, according to the Aug. 31 report in the Kingston Daily Freeman.

Zimet said at the special board meeting that the current board is working to make sure no other board will have to walk into the situation she walked into in January. Zimet was not available for comment when reporters tried to reach her during the week.

Board members Jeff Logan and Kevin Barry both agreed to start a committee in search of someone who will review the town’s budget and finances. The budget, according to Zimet, is due Sept. 30, and the board is currently working on putting it together before that time.