Sullivan County Democrat
Callicoon, New York
August 16, 2013 Issue
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Fremont Audit: Find fault in operations

Story by Dan Hust
FREMONT CENTER — July 16, 2013 — According to the NYS Comptroller’s Office, the Town of Fremont has been too lax in its financial safeguards, even to the point of leaving its highway department gas pumps unsecured and open to anyone.
In an audit covering January 1, 2011, to November 15, 2012, the auditors found the following:
• Fremont hasn’t conducted the legally required annual audit on any portion of its government since at least 2004. Two board members told auditors the town has never conducted one, and the supervisor claimed he was not aware that one should be conducted.
• The town board overestimated revenues from 2008-2012 by more than $126,000, or 12 percent, leading to consistent budget shortfalls. “Board members,” said the auditors, “could not tell us what the basis was for any of the budget estimates they adopted in prior years.”
• Due to a lack of monitoring of finances on the town board’s part, Fremont’s general fund balance was in the red by $3,586 at the end of fiscal year 2012, leading to a tax levy increase of two percent for 2013.
• Although appropriate documentation was usually supplied and no wrongdoing was found, more than $6,000 in purchases did not have paperwork clearly stating what was bought.
• Board members told auditors they did not always know exactly what they were authorizing payment for.
• Physical controls and records for keeping track of the town’s vehicle fuel use were virtually non-existent. In fact, auditors found that the switches for turning on the fuel pumps were completely unsecured, allowing anyone to pump fuel at any time.
• The only recordkeeping of fuel supplies was on a notebook which evidenced changes to some original entries. “Because the controls over fuel inventories were nonexistent and the fuel records were manipulated and therefore unreliable, we could not perform tests to determine whether fuel was missing,” wrote the auditors. “The highway superintendent stated that he had overlooked the process of maintaining accurate fuel inventories because he did not think fuel inventory controls were ever needed.”
• There was no independent verification that all the checks were presented to the supervisor for his signature, nor was there verification that all cleared checks were included on an abstract.
In a response included with the audit, Supervisor George Conklin said the town had understood that the audit was for the justice court, though it’s only passingly mentioned in the report.
“As for the depletion of fund balance,” he wrote, “we believe that we are not alone, as we are in a depression that no one under the age of 80 has witnessed.”
Conklin said the board wished auditors would have recognized their fiscal restraint during budgeting – especially since no elected official has gotten a raise in the past five years.
He defended his oversight of bills and checks and thanked the auditors for seeing that he’s trying to budget more realistically.
He also found at least one error in the report, noting that – contrary to the auditors’ assertion – he had provided the board with reports comparing actual financial results to the adopted budget.
“As for your suggestion of a multi-year financial plan, we agree and are working with a CPA on that,” Conklin concluded.

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