State auditors say Yonkers didn’t manage money well

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Job cuts on the table in Yonkers budget battle.
Wochit

YONKERS – State auditors criticized local elected officials for not effectively monitoring the city’s financial condition.

On Friday — the same day Mayor Mike Spano announced hundreds of layoffs to close a budget gap — the office of state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released an audit of Yonkers’ financial operations.

Auditors faulted city officials for a number of issues, including taking new loans when cash from old loans wasn’t depleted, lacking internal audits and omitting bank accounts with balances from accounting records.

“City officials need to improve their planning and monitoring of capital projects and the use of bond proceeds,” stated the report. “The (city) council and city officials also need to improve their budgeting practices and management of fund balance.”

LAYOFFS: Yonkers faces 400 jobs cuts to balance budget

The state auditors looked at Yonkers’ finances from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2016.

One thing the auditors didn’t like was Yonkers’ borrowing through bond issues. They alleged that as of the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2016, the city had over-borrowed by $14.27 million.

Yonkers finance Commissioner John Liszewski disagreed with many of the auditors’ conclusions, especially with the allegation that city officials weren’t effectively monitoring Yonkers’ financial condition.

“This is a broad statement that inaccurately depicts rigorous reporting and monitoring that the city undertakes on a regular basis,” wrote Liszewski.

Liszewski pointed out that since 1976 all of Yonkers’ budgets have been approved by the state comptroller’s office and that the city issues quarterly revenue forecasts to state and local officials, among several other financial-control measures.

As for alleged over-borrowing, Liszewski responded that some of the city’s rebuilding projects, such as sewers, take years to finish, so the city has to juggle multiple projects that require borrowing.

“We cannot, as the (comptroller’s office) suggests, simply wait until the current remediation project is completed before (borrowing) again for the next remediation project,” wrote Liszewski.

Liszewski also cited a number of measures to dispute the auditors’ opinion that city officials haven’t effectively monitored Yonkers finances. He noted that Yonkers’ elected officials have raised sales, income and property taxes, instituted a hotel tax, limited property-tax-break agreements to 10 years or less and renewed long-expired union contracts, among other efforts.

“We felt that certain statements in the report were not observations or recommendations supported by fact, but rather unsupported opinion,” Liszewski wrote.

Twitter: @ErnieJourno

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