News Column

Audit report on city finances coming soon

August 8, 2014

By Rikki Cason, Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, N.Y.

Aug. 08--The City of Lockport expects a new audit report from the state Comptroller's Office to be released very soon.

Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said Wednesday the city received a report concerning the audit of Lockport's cash flow about a month ago. The report was reviewed and city officials sent a response back to the Comptroller's Office about 10 days ago.

McCaffrey said when the Comptroller's Office is ready, they will make the city's response and original report public.

"It's their timing when that is made public," she said.

The city received an initial audit by the comptroller last December when Lockport was declared as fiscally stressed. Auditors decided to return in January to conduct two new separate audits over the next few months. McCaffrey said they left the city about a month ago.

The city hasn't received the second audit's written report, but McCaffrey said that is expected soon as well.

Also on Wednesday, the Common Council passed a resolution to write off any loans between city funds that were made without documentation.

McCaffrey said in their review of city finances, the Comptroller's Office discovered that the city had a number of such loans that were made over a long period of time.

Basically, one fund would be used to loan money to cover another fund when it was needed. But the transfers were done without any paperwork.

"These have accumulated over the years and there is no documentation to attest what those fund transfers were for," McCaffrey said.

After working with Treasurer Michael White, auditors recommended the city "restate" the balance sheet. This required the unsupported balances of those loans be written off.

"It's multiple funds for multiple transfers from years ago," McCaffrey said.

There is no financial or budgetary impact by doing this, the mayor said, it just clears up the old balances that have no documentation.

White said the process allowed the city to improve their accounting system. There is now a closer way to monitor all interfund transactions so to track the figures.

"Accounting protocol requires that this sort of restatement be processed methodically, leaving a valid audit trail in our accounting records," he said.

The Common Council also approved a local law Wednesday, amending its rules on building permits.

When the Council first enacted the law, fines for not having a building permit were not included in the legislation.

The law now says a building permit shall be required for any work which may conform to the uniform code and/or the energy code, including construction, enlargement, alteration, improvement, removal, relocation or demolition of any building structure.

If work begins and a permit has not been obtained, the code enforcement office can now issue a fine. The fine is double the regular rate of the cost of a permit that should have been obtained or $25, whichever is greater.

--Two grants were received by the Lockport Police Department which will help fund various projects. The Operation IMPACT Tool grant was received, providing the department with $30,000. This money will be used to help cover overtime expenses, officials said.

The city also received the Purchase Equipment and Modify Office Environment grant for $50,000. This money will be used to purchase and install new video cameras in police cars. The department will also be looking into purchasing new semi-automatic rifles and computer software.

--A valve is in need of replacing at the Water Treatment Plant. The valve is connected to the city's back-up water supply through Niagara County. In case of an emergency, the city can purchase water from the county, or vice versa.

The valve is also needed when a test is run this fall, checking the raw water line from North Tonawanda. At that time, the city will need to purchase water from Niagara County for about three to four days.

The cost of the plug valve and rotork actuator -- including installation -- is $21,115. The city will be responsible for $1,074 of that, while the difference will be paid through Niagara County and a reimbursable grant.

Contact reporter Rikki Cason at 439-9222, ext. 6252 or follow her on Twitter @rikiki23.


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Source: Lockport Union-Sun & Journal (NY)

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