Essex has joined a growing list of towns that have been audited recently. It seems pretty universal that the auditors aren't happy with many small town's bookkeeping. In our case there was no fraud, or malfeasance. Our town clerk failed to bill our neighboring town for some transfer site tickets and that was the only missing money. That was easily cured. The problems are accounting and reporting methods and procedures.
Our supervisor's clerk had asked many times for the auditor's office to come up and help her set up things differently, particularly for capital projects and the water billing, and they never had the time. She asked them to recommend an accounting program, and was told they didn't recommend any of them. The accounting was basically the same for 25 years and other audits never noticed the errors, and I admit there are some errors. I'm an engineer with no accounting training. While I can check the math and see if everything balances, I couldn't provide her any expertise in setting up proper reporting procedures.
The auditor said the Town Board never knew how much money the Sewer District owed the town. That is incorrect. Every time the Town Board approved a loan to the Sewer District, the Town Board was told what that loan brought the total loan to. When they voted for a drawdown, they were told what that would reduce the total to.
The auditor faulted us for cutting our 2009 appropriations by $400,000 during the 2009 year. The economy turned bad and we could see we were not going to reach our projected revenues. By cutting expenses, instead of a huge budget shortfall, we actually ended up with a $30,000 unexpended balance. We had hoped to have a little larger unexpended balance to reduce the 2010 tax levy a little more in continued tough times. I don't understand why the auditor considered that a bad thing.