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Owasco Fire District audit

Owasco Fire District audit

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Published by The Post-Standard

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Published by: The Post-Standard on Oct 20, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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October 12, 2012Mr. Jack Gilfus, ChairmanMembers of the Board of Fire CommissionersOwasco Fire District128 Grant AvenueAuburn, NY 13021Report Number: 2012M-121Dear Mr. Gilfus and Members of the Board of Fire Commissioners:One of the Office of the State Comptroller’s primary objectives is to identify areas where localgovernment officials can improve their operations and provide guidance and services that willassist them in making those improvements. Our goals are to develop and promote short-term andlong-term strategies to enable and encourage local government officials to reduce costs, improveservice delivery, and account for and protect their entity’s assets.In accordance with these goals, we conducted an audit of the Owasco Fire District (District)which addressed the following question:
Have District Commissioners provided adequate oversight of the financial operations of the District to ensure that assets are safeguarded?The District’s response is attached to this report in Appendix A. District officials agreed with ourrecommendations and indicated they planned to initiate corrective action.
Background and Methodology
The District is a district corporation of the State, distinct and separate from the Town of Owasco,and located in Cayuga County. The District is governed by a five-member Board of FireCommissioners (Board). The Board is responsible for the overall financial management of theDistrict, including establishing appropriate internal controls and safeguarding cash. The Districtcovers approximately 37 square miles, with a population of approximately 3,750, including2,034 residences and 65 commercial properties.
The District’s appropriations for 2012 total$662,400, funded primarily through real property tax revenue.
Including two apartment buildings
 The Board appoints a Treasurer who acts as the District’s chief fiscal officer. The Treasurer isresponsible for the receipt and custody of District funds, for disbursing and accounting for thosefunds, for preparing monthly and annual financial reports, and for meeting any other reportingrequirements.We examined the internal controls over the District’s financial operations for the period January1, 2010, to April 30, 2012. We interviewed appropriate District officials and reviewed financialrecords and Board minutes. We conducted this performance audit in accordance with generallyaccepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform theaudit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings andconclusions based on our audit objective. We believe that the evidence obtained provides areasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objective.
Audit Results
The Board is responsible for overseeing the District’s fiscal activities and safeguarding itsresources. To fulfill this duty, it is essential that the Board establish a system of internal controls,which consists of policies and procedures that ensure transactions are authorized and properlyrecorded; that financial reports are accurate, reliable, and filed in a timely manner; and that theDistrict complies with applicable laws, rules and regulations. The Board is also responsible forperforming a thorough audit of claims before they are paid to ensure that District funds are usedfor only legitimate District expenditures.The Treasurer must maintain complete, accurate and timely records to account for all of theDistrict’s financial activities properly. It is also important for the Treasurer to prepare and submitmonthly reports to the Board. These reports are an important fiscal tool, which provide the Boardwith the information necessary to monitor District operations.An annual budget, sometimes referred to as the operating budget, details the District’s financialplan for a fiscal year. In accordance with Town Law, the Board is required to prepare and adoptan annual budget within a prescribed timetable and, in doing so, determine the amount of realproperty taxes to be raised by the District. It is important that the Board adopt budgets thatinclude realistic estimates of revenues and expenditures.We found that the Board generally does not provide adequate oversight of District financialactivities. The Treasurer does not submit consistent monthly financial reports to the Board,
andthe Board does not appropriately prepare and monitor their annual budgets.Due to these deficiencies, we reviewed all cash disbursements for our scope period, and tested all585 cash disbursements for January 1, 2011, to March 31, 2012, totaling $634,717. We alsoreviewed all bank statement activity for our audit period, ensured that any non-check withdrawals were appropriate, and reviewed bank reconciliations for January 2011 throughMarch 2012. Generally, we found that financial activity was properly recorded and supported,and disbursements were for valid District expenditures.
The Treasurer does not submit monthly reports to the Board during the months of January through April. Instead,the reports are provided to the Board all at once in May.
 Although no fraudulent or inappropriate activity was found during the normal course of ourreview, without appropriate compensating controls in place to oversee the Treasurer’s duties,there is an increased risk that errors or irregularities could occur and remain undetected anduncorrected. We verbally discussed some minor deficiencies with District officials during theconduct of our fieldwork.
The Board should prepare realistic annual budgets and monitor operations against thebudget.2.
The Board should routinely and thoroughly monitor the Treasurer’s records andactivities.The Board has the responsibility to initiate corrective action. Pursuant to Section 181-b of TownLaw, a written corrective action plan (CAP) that addresses the findings and recommendations inthis report must be prepared and forwarded to our office within 90 days. To the extentpracticable, implementation of the CAP must begin by the end of the next fiscal year. For moreinformation on preparing and filing your CAP, please refer to our brochure,
 Responding to anOSC Audit Report 
, which you received with the draft audit report. The Board should make theCAP available for public review in the Secretary’s office.Sincerely,Office of the State ComptrollerDivision of Local Governmentand School Accountability

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