Report: County prepared budget well

The Jefferson County Board of Legislators is shown here meeting in May. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — A state comptroller’s office review of how Jefferson County responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in its budgeting has given the county a clean bill of health.

In just a three-page finding released Friday, the office determined that county officials “adequately assessed the impact of the pandemic on financial operations” while creating its 2021 budget.

“It was confirmation that we had our financial ducks in a row,” Jefferson County Board of Legislators Chairman Scott A. Gray said of the review’s findings.

The office of Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli reviewed the adopted 2021 fiscal budgets of 20 counties, cities, towns and villages across the state to assess whether local officials adequately considered the impact of the pandemic on their financial operations while developing their budgets.

The comptroller’s office said the pandemic resulted in varying impacts on the financial operations of local governments, with some seeing little impact and others experiencing significant impacts on revenues or expenditures, which sometimes led to the need for municipalities to eliminate some services and temporarily or permanently reduce staff positions.

The review also noted that the pandemic has created a difficult environment for officials to develop annual budgets given the unknowns of future financial impacts. The pandemic increases the need for local officials to more closely monitor their budgeted estimates for revenues and expenditures against actual results and modify their budgetary estimates accordingly, when warranted, during the course of their fiscal year.

According to the comptroller’s office, it obtained adopted budgets and other information from each municipality and then interviewed officials to get an understanding of their budget development process and to determine whether any estimates in the adopted budget were adjusted due to a potential impact of the pandemic.

The review also identified and examined for reasonableness significant estimated revenues and expenditures and estimated revenues and expenditures below an established threshold that could more likely be impacted by the pandemic. It also identified any significant new revenue or expenditure estimates, made appropriate inquiries and reviewed supporting documentation to assess whether the estimates were realistic and reasonable.

In Jefferson County’s case, the review stated that there remains continually new and evolving impacts caused by the pandemic, so county officials will need to carefully monitor their budgeted to actual revenues and expenditures and make amendments to the budget as needed throughout the year.

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