LOCKPORT – State auditors will return soon to Lockport City Hall.
This new audit will not be looking at the same things as last year’s, when the state Comptroller’s Office said Lockport’s financial record-keeping was so poor that the Common Council prepared the 2013 budget without realizing the city was out of money at the end of 2012.
Auditors expect to start work in Lockport by the end of this month, and it may take nine months before they issue a completed report, according to Brian Butry, spokesman for Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
Common Council President Anne E. McCaffrey announced the audit in an email to her colleagues and reporters. “The audit will focus on an evaluation of the City’s internal controls over its financial operations and will primarily cover the 2013 fiscal year,” according to an email from Albany that McCaffrey forwarded.
Thus, the audit won’t take into account the reforms and spending cuts the Council included in the 2014 budget.
“This won’t be a follow-up audit. We are selecting an audit objective that wasn’t part of our original audit,” Butry said. “The previous one was a fiscal stress audit, so it was looking at the fiscal condition of the city and the overall finances. This is looking at specific internal controls over city finances.”
“I’m not surprised they’re coming,” Mayor Michael W. Tucker said. “I welcome it. We’re all determined to make sure we’re on track.”
The auditors came to Lockport after a September report placed the city on the comptroller’s list of fiscally stressed communities. “I anticipate once you’re on that list, you have the pleasure of a visit from them for a couple of years,” Tucker said.
Lockport was listed under the category of “moderate fiscal stress” because its surplus was too low and its personnel costs were too high.
The surplus turned out to be even lower than the state had thought.
When the fiscal stress report came out, the state wasn’t questioning the report from City Treasurer Michael E. White that the general fund balance as of the end of 2012 was $155,380, with an unappropriated total of $37,308.
A state audit report released in late December concluded that the general fund had a deficit of $1.15 million as of the end of 2012, and the 2013 results were only going to make things worse.
The December report projected a combined year-end deficit as of the end of 2013 of $2.35 million, totaling the four main funds: general, water, sewer and refuse.
McCaffrey said the city’s corrective action plan for responding to the findings of the December report isn’t due until March 20.
“We have a good start on it,” said McCaffrey, R-2nd Ward.
The Council is expected to vote Tuesday, in a meeting rescheduled from one that was canceled Wednesday because of bad weather, to hire an outside attorney to probe alleged misuse of a city credit card by Youth and Recreation Director Melissa I. Junke.
“That certainly might fit in the scope, depending on what the auditors look at when they’re in there,” Butry said. “You could be looking at issues of payroll, issues of procurement, intradepartmental operations.”