New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNaploi announced his office has completed several audits, including the town of Westfield Financial Management.
For the last three completed fiscal years, the Westfield Village Board adopted budgets that inappropriately allocated $223,080 in state retirement contributions and medical insurance costs to the highway town-outside-village fund, and sales and use tax revenues totaling $88,605 to the general townwide fund. This caused an inequity in favor of the taxpayers who reside in the village of Westfield at the expense of those taxpayers who reside outside the village.
"In today's fiscal climate, budget transparency and accountability for our local communities is a top priority," said DiNapoli. "By auditing municipal finances and operations, my office continues to provide taxpayers the assurance that their money is being spent appropriately and effectively."
A letter was sent to the town officials in order to help them figure out a solution to the above problems. The recommendations are as follows:
1. The Board should adopt budgets and allocate State retirement contributions and medical insurance costs between the highway townwide and highway town-outside-village funds based on personal service costs.
2. The Board should continue to budget and account for all sales and use tax revenues in the town-outside-village funds, until real property taxes in those funds are reduced to zero, in accordance with statute.
3. The Supervisor should correct the accounting records in the highway town-outside-village fund and the town-wide funds to properly reflect the improper allocation of $223,080 in State retirement contributions, medical insurance costs and sales tax revenue during 2010 through 2012.
4. The Supervisor should consider analyzing fiscal year data prior to our audit period to determine the extent to which similar iniquities occurred due to the improper budgeting and accounting for sales and use tax revenues, State retirement contributions and medical insurance costs. The Supervisor should record necessary adjustments to the unexpended surplus of the affected funds.
Town Supervisor Martha Bills responded to this audit in a letter to the Office of the State Comptroller Buffalo Regional Office. In the letter she writes the town board has worked diligently over the past several years to reduce the property tax burden on its citizens during these difficult financial times when the region has been hit with employment and population losses.
Bills indicated the board will implement the first recommendation in the 2015 budget, make adjustments with the second recommendation to the 2013-2014 budgets to reflect requirements, and make fund adjustments accordingly. The town board will address the remaining recommendations in the tax cap.
Bills concludes in her letter the board will remain committed to its joint goal of efficient and effective use of limited resources for the benefit of all its citizens and appreciates the help of the comptroller in challenging the financial environment.