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State comptroller audit finds Town of Guilford in Chenango County did not develop realistic budgets

By Journal Staff (news@cnybj.com)

Date:

GUILFORD, N.Y. — A recent audit by the office of New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli showed the Town of Guilford board failed to develop realistic budgets, underestimating revenue, and not using the appropriated fund balance. 

That resulted in an unrestricted fund balance in the general and highway funds that exceeded the town’s fund-balance policy limit, according to the audit summary released by DiNapoli’s office. The report, issued on March 14, also included the results of three other local government and school audits in New York state.

The Guilford audit showed that actual revenue exceeded estimates by an average of $210,000 (42 percent) in the general fund and $180,000 (17 percent) in the highway fund. The town board adopted budgets that planned to use $228,000 of fund balance to offset projected operating deficits in the general fund, but the general fund actually incurred operating surpluses each year for a combined total of $378,991 for the audit period of Jan. 1, 2020, to May 31, 2023, the comptroller’s office found. As a result, appropriated fund balance was not used as planned.

The audit was originally intended to begin from Jan. 1, 2022, but was extended to review historical trends in the budgets, per the comptroller.

The unrestricted fund balance for the general and highway funds exceeded the maximum allowable limit under the town’s policy — ranging from $464,000 to $709,000 in the general fund and $168,000 to $225,000 in the highway fund.

As the Town of Guilford’s two main operating funds, revenue for the general fund comes primarily from real property taxes and sales taxes, while revenue for the highway fund emanates from real property taxes and Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funding.

Following the audit, DiNapoli’s office recommended that Guilford adopt budgets that contain realistic revenue estimates based on available current data and historical trends, appropriate fund balance when needed, and reduce the unrestricted fund balance amounts to within the amounts allowed by the town’s policy.

Audit findings were presented to the Town of Guilford board for review at its Feb. 14 meeting.

“A corrective action plan for incorporation into the town’s 2025 budget planning activities [is] forthcoming and will be provided to your office in the near future,” Town Supervisor Susan McIntyre wrote in response to DiNapoli’s office.

Guilford is a rural town located on the eastern border of Chenango County.