Town of Parish still listed as being under ‘significant stress’

ALBANY - The town of Parish is still on the state Comptroller’s list of financially stressed municipalities.

The most recent listed, dated Sept. 26, put Parish on the highest list of communities under “significant stress.” It also was placed on the significant stress list last year.

Last year and two years ago, Fulton was named a city susceptible to fiscal stress, which is two notches better than being in significant stress, according to information from the Comptroller’s office. The city has improved its financial standing and now is off the comptroller’s stress lists.

The Comptroller’s office takes financial information sent in by the municipalities to compute how much fiscal stress a community has. The most recent list was for the fiscal year 2018.

Comptroller’s office personnel evaluate budgetary solvency, the ability of a locality to generate enough revenue to meet expenses, cash position, use of short-term debt for cash flow, fixed costs, operating deficits and surpluses and year-end fund balances.

The system uses information that local governments and school districts already submit/report -- there are no new reporting requirements.

Entities receive a fiscal score and based on the fiscal score, the system assigns a category of stress or a “no designation” category depending on its score. The three categories of stress are: Significant Fiscal Stress, Moderate Fiscal Stress and Susceptible to Fiscal Stress.

Parish Supervisor Mary Ann Phillips said the town is working on its financial situation and actually had a better score for fiscal year 2018 than the previous year. Its recent score was 66.7, compared to 70 a year ago and 63.8 two years ago.

A score of 65 or higher puts a community on the “Significant Fiscal Stress” list.

Phillips said the town’s problems stem from it being about $215,000 in the red. She said this happened before she became supervisor in January 2018.

She said previous administrations had used incorrect account codes in the town budget and even had some account codes that really didn’t exist. When there wasn’t money in accounts to pay bills, the town borrowed money.

“They were spending more than they had,” Phillips said. “They weren’t watching.”

She said over a six-year period, the debt grew from $50,000 to $215,000. Now, the board is trying to pay the money back a little at a time so not to increase taxes too much in one year.

She expects the money to be paid back within about four years.

In an audit of the town’s finances from Jan. 1, 2017 to July 31, 2018, the state Comptroller’s office found the following problems:

n The town board did not adopt structurally balanced budgets and did not monitor the budgets throughout the year. As a result, the town’s general and highway townwide funds ended 2017 with a deficit fund balance of about $166,000.

n The town board was not given accurate financial reports for managing financial condition.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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