Audit shines light on village finances

While the auditors will make a public presentation regarding the village’s finances, I am pleased to report that we are heading in the right direction. The audit not only shows that the village is financially sound, it also serves as strong confirmation that abolishing the administrator’s position was indeed the right decision. Certain actions that it has brought to light demonstrate what can happen when the village is run by a single, very powerful, albeit non-elected individual.

There is a Capital Project Fund with more than $1.3 million that was never disclosed to me or the Village Board. This fund was not included in the presented and adopted yearly budgets. Although finding money is always good, it is also proof of gross mismanagement of public funds. Our fund balance has been allowed to reach a level considerably higher than the recommended amount by the state comptroller while the village has been forced to bond expenses, which could have been easily funded without the need to pay administrative costs and interest.

SUNY Fredonia is under contract with the village for water and sewer services. According to the audit report, the university was underbilled for the fiscal year 2017-18 by more than $140,000. This reduction was never authorized by the board, known by the taxpayers, or even requested by the college. It is only one of several arbitrary decisions on the part of the former administrator.

The proposed contract with the Pomfret-Portland-Dunkirk Sewer District that two trustees presented for approval was drafted under his guidance and would have reduced revenues for the village by more than $60,000.

This reduction was again intentional and premeditated as proved by the amount that he budgeted for the fiscal year 2018-19.

These latest facts reveal that without checks and balances or any reasonable level of transparency, it is the taxpayers who ultimately suffer. Mitigation of these issues has already begun.

The position of administrator has been abolished and as per the charter, the village has a treasurer and clerk. That has not only produced some savings, but more importantly, restoration of much needed oversight. The college has been informed of the “mistake” and they were both understanding and supportive. Furthermore, work on a new Pomfret-Portland-Dunkirk contract has started and it is my hope that very soon we will have a new one — fair for everyone involved.

Finally, with the help of our treasurer, we are formulating a fiscally responsible three- to five-year plan to bring the fund balance within the allowable limits, lower our debt and produce a workable day-to-day budget that will keep our taxes down while providing the services that our citizens deserve.

Athanasia Landis is the mayor of the village of Fredonia.