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NYS comptroller critiques Henrietta's finances

Henrietta, N.Y. - The State Comptroller's Office has found that the Town of Henrietta hasn't been budgeting correctly, and as a result has a multi-million dollar surplus.

The state looked at the town's finances from January 2011 through December 2013 and found within that time period, the town adopted unrealistic budgets that caused it to spend less and bring in more money than needed, giving the town nearly $12 million in the general fund.

According to the audit: The Board routinely under-estimated revenues and over-estimated expenditures in its adopted budgets for the last five years (2008 through 2012), which generated significant budgetary and operating surpluses.

We've collected over a million-and-a-half dollars more a year over the last six years than we've needed to collect, said current Henrietta Supervisor Jack Moore.

Past Henrietta Supervisor Jim Breese said plans should have been in place for the money or tax cuts should have been made.

Based on the Henrietta budget I think 5- or 6 million is plenty, it would have been enough to cover emergencies, said Breese. I was going a little higher up about 9 (million) because I had plans to spend that or cut taxes further.

According to the audit, the budget in 2012 was $17 million.

Surplus is great -- that's the silver lining in this. We're going to be able to fill some of the community needs, said Moore, who also pointed out regardless of the good that can come from the extra cash, the surplus should have never gotten this big.

Going forward, our community needs a recreation facility and a town court, of which we've rented for the last 20 years, said Moore. So we've got to somehow fill those two needs for our community, and after that we've got to see if there's money left that we can give back to the people.

During the time of the audit, Michael Yudelson was the town supervisor.

He sent a statement saying in part: During the period of 2007 to 2013, the budgeted amount of sales tax revenue to be received was increased by 40%, from $1.5M to $$2.5M (and is $2.85M for 2014). However the amount we received over the budgeted amount for that same period was $5.83M, roughly the same amount as the increase in the overall surplus.

His succesor, Moore, is already making changes.

He has hired a finance director who starts Feb. 3. Its the first financial director the town has had in four years.

Ive collected 40 credit cards in the first few days of January because our credit card policy was too lose," Moore said. "Were going to write a credit card policy going forward. 

He also plans to hold ethics training for all the town staff and elected officials who handle money.

Well also set up an ethics board so theyll monitor some of our activity so that we can know right from wrong and well be able to do the right thing going forward, said Moore.

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Washington Times