MAHOPAC, N.Y. - The town of Carmel and its comptroller’s department received another glowing review after its annual audit performed last month.
“We have issued an unmodified (clean) opinion—the best opinion that you can receive—relating to the town as of Dec. 31, 2017,” said Alan Kassay, partner with O’Connor Davies, the firm that performed the audit. “The objective of our audit was to obtain reasonable assurance about whether [the town’s] financial statements are free of material misstatement. As part of the scope of work, we reviewed management’s accounting estimates and the…treatment afforded to all significant accounting matters. We found those all to be reasonable.”
Kassay, along with town Comptroller Mary Ann Maxwell, made the audit presentation at the Town Board’s July 11 meeting.
“The scope of the audit was directed at all significant aspects of the town’s operations to reduce audit risks to an acceptable level,” Kassay explained. “Our primary focus was not on individual transactions and balances, but on the financial statements that we are opining on taken as a whole.”
Kassay’s praise centered mostly on the town’s ability to maintain healthy fund balances over the past several years. The town’s general fund balance totals went from $7.1 million in 2016 to $8.4 million in 2017, an 18 percent increase—or a $1.3 million hike.
“That’s very healthy; anything above 10 to 12 percent is considered good,” Kassay said.
Maxwell said over the past several years, the town has been able to avoid using fund balance money to lower the tax levy and instead save that money for capital improvement projects and potential emergencies.
“We were doing that back in 2008 (using fund balance money to keep taxes lower) and we got a warning,” Maxwell said. “You should really not be doing that to lower taxes. Now that we have [healthy fund balances], we can use it for capital projects, like Airport Park and last year’s revaluation.”
Kassay also noted that the town’s budget projections have been spot-on—and in some cases, the actual outcomes were better than the projections. For example, in the most recent budget, $18.97 million in revenue was projected. The actual amount of revenue turned out to be $19.3 million—a $372,506 positive variance. Expenditures were expected to be $18.8 million, but the actual number was much lower: $17.3 million, a $1.4 million positive variance.
The comptroller’s office also received the Certificate of Achievement in Financial Reporting for the 25th consecutive year.
“That is quite an achievement because if you looked at the report you will see that the last 30 or 40 pages are all statistical information prepared by Mary Ann and her department,” Kassay said.
The town also maintained its Aa1 rating from Moody’s, one of the highest ratings possible. It means “Obligations are judged to be of high quality, very low credit risk,” translating to lower interest rates when the town needs to borrow money.
The town has an array of capital improvement projects on its plate right now—from improvements and upgrades to several town parks to the revitalization of the business district to the creation of a new master plan—and Councilman Jonathan Schneider said he was relieved to learn the town is fiscally prepared to handle them.
“Prior to this I was actually becoming a little bit concerned about the possibility of having [to break] the 2 percent [tax] cap, but seeing we are increasing our fund balances so drastically and seeing the favorable variances on the expenditures on every department, I am becoming a little bit more comfortable with what the next couple of years are going to hold,” he said.