Friday, September 15, 2006

Town of East Fishkill
Dutchess County, New York
330 ROUTE 376, Hopewell Junction, New York 12533
Telephone 845-221-4303


Well, I found out that blog is short for “weblog.” I guess that blog is easier to say than “wlog.” Anyway, maybe for this blog we can discuss finances. Shortly after taking office this past January I asked the Town Board for permission to bring in a third-party financial analyst to review our financial performance. I felt that, just as anyone taking over a new business, you simply want to know where you stand financially. For the most part, the board was very interested in this proposal and we hired the firm Accounting Associates to perform what is referred to as a “trend analysis.” In government we have all kinds of checks and balances including an annual audit, in our case we use a very well-recognized firm to handle our audits so there never was any question that the books didn’t balance. What the trend analysis would tell us is how efficiently we were using our resources over a historic five-year period.

To sum up the findings, although Town expenses were rising over the last few years (as were those of any household) the previous administration felt the best way to address the situation was to cut taxes each year (except for last year) and cover the operating deficit out of our fund surplus (which is much like a household savings account). We all know that you can only spend more than you take in for so long; I asked one of the principles of Accounting Associates how long we could continue at this rate. She replied that we would exhaust our fund balance in three-to-five years.

So, what did we do? The only thing that you can do is to cut expenses and raise revenue. The Town Board and I moved to cut any unnecessary spending. We discovered some uncollected fees dating back to 2001 and are in the process of collecting them. We reviewed and, where appropriate, raised our Planning and Zoning and Building Department fees (in some cases, the fees that we were charging were not even covering the overhead of providing those services!) and enacted new fees to cover other types of expenses. Councilwoman Ethel Walker and I now meet with the Town’s Financial Administrator on a monthly basis to review the projected budget and see where we actually stand; Councilman Bill Dahncke reviews the monthly Highway expenditures. We have changed the internal organizational structure to have specific people review specific accounts so that they don’t fall into arrears again and we have instituted new policies to ensure payment of fees due.

The changes that we have made will certainly help get us back on solid financial footing. Still, just as any household that has an unemployed breadwinner – we must continue to tighten our belts, watch our income and expenses. We are not out of the woods yet, but we headed in the right direction. One last point, without a supportive Town Board, interested in the well-being of our community, we could not have made these changes as quickly as we have. We work as a team and I would like to thank each and everyone of them.

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