Comptroller chides Bovina over fiscal bookkeeping

Molé

An 18-month audit of the town of Bovina found that its town supervisor did not “maintain complete, accurate and timely accounting records and reports,” according to a Dec. 20 report by the New York State Comptroller’s Office.

Under New York General Municipal Law, maintaining financial records is the responsibility of the town supervisor, who serves as chief executive and financial officer.

“There is always fault with the Town Supervisor and the Board when it comes to issues with the way things are done in a community,” Town Supervisor Tina Molé wrote in her Dec. 11 response to the comptroller’s office. “In the Letter it clearly states that the Town Supervisor should be on top of the accounting and financial activity of the community.”

Bovina is governed by an elected five-member board, consisting of the town supervisor and four council members, who are collectively responsible for the town’s operations and finances.

At Molé’s recommendation, according to the report, the board appointed a bookkeeper to maintain accounting records, generate financial reports and develop the budget, which totaled $1.3 million with a $747,732 real property tax levy in 2019.

The report found that “with the incomplete records presented to the Board, its members were unaware of the actual revenues and expenditures each month. Without budget-to-actual information, the Board was also unable to properly monitor the budget.”

As a result, the town’s total fund balance in the water fund decreased 116% in a two-year period, dropping from about $10,000 on Dec. 31, 2016, to negative $1,600 on Dec. 31, 2018, according to the report. At the end of the 2017 fiscal year, the fund balance was negative $6,526.

The audit found that annual update documents were not filed with the comptroller’s office in a timely manner, which the town’s bookkeeper, Joe Hanley, attributed to “personal matters” in an interview with auditing officials, according to the report.

“Since 2008 the bookkeeper had done a good job with record keeping and giving the board information in a timely manner,” Molé wrote, acknowledging the former bookkeeper’s personal issues and noting that as of June 2017, “he had not been able to maintain the records as in the past.”

Molé continued that she was “constantly asking” for monthly reports and annual update documents and Hanley consistently told her, “I am working on them.”

“I clearly did not push the bookkeeper along to get things resolved,” she wrote.

Annual update documents are required to be filed with the comptroller’s office within 60 days of the end of a municipality’s fiscal year — Dec. 31, for the town of Bovina.

The audit found that the town’s financial documents were filed 251 days late for the 2016 fiscal year. Though town officials were granted 60-day extensions for both 2017 and 2018, the documents still had not been filed by the conclusion of the audit on June 25.

“The bookkeeper recorded all check disbursements made from the major operating funds in a timely manner but did not record revenues or electronic disbursements in the Town’s accounting software for fiscal year 2018 until September 2018,” the report read. “In addition, the bookkeeper has not recorded revenues received or electronic disbursements made after September 2018 through the end of our audit period in the Town’s accounting software.”

Hanley resigned from the position effective Dec. 31, according to Molé. Christa Schafer, who serves as clerk of the Delaware County Board of Supervisors, was hired as the town’s new bookkeeper Jan. 1.

The audit also noted that Molé has not delivered a required monthly report to the board since February 2018.

The town board must submit a corrective action plan to the comptroller’s office by April.

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.

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