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Lake George political showdown morphs into love-fest

LAKEGEORGE-A week ago, it seemed that political activists in town were ready for a verbal brawl with the town leaders over municipal finances.

Last week, members of the Lake George Citizen's Group had successfully demanded a public "roundtable" session to hash out findings in a state audit report.

Monday, June 20, with the public crowding the town hall for this roundtable meeting, the stage was set for a clash between the local government leaders and their political foes, people who have gone on record that they want to oust them from office.

Monday's showdown, however, was more like a love-fest than a political smackdown.

"I thought I heard strains of 'Kumbaya' in the air," former Town Board member George McGowan said shortly after the meeting ended with everybody - the critics and the town leaders - applauding each other in unison.

While a week earlier, people had voiced protests about a lack of transparency in the budget, such angry comments were absent in the Monday meeting.

Town Supervisor Frank McCoy explained that since he had taken office, he and the board had instituted new financial software that provided titles for budget categories, rather than inscrutable code numbers. In the past, obtaining information about sums listed under codes was next to impossible, McGowan and others had said.

In response to questions about maintaining appropriate cash balances, avoiding cash flow shortages and preparing valid estimates of expenditures and revenues for budgeting, McCoy noted that the past several years had been difficult, and even many financial experts had been stymied in the wake of the financial collapse.

Town resident Whitney Russell questioned McCoy on whether the town had been maintaining adequate financial reserves.

McCoy replied that while last year the town had incurred cash flow shortages, this year he had purposefully underestimated revenues and overestimated expenses to allow for a financial cushion against hard times - and the town should have $400,000 in fund balance left over by the end of 2011.

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