An audit of Dutchess County finances by the state comptroller’s office called budgeted revenues and expenditures for the 2014 budget “reasonable,” saying the budget was structurally balanced, but was critical of the use of the fund balance to cover shortages, which caused a fund-balance decrease by nearly $9.4 million between 2010 and 2012.
The audit report, which covered the period of Jan. 1, 2012 to Nov. 30, 2013, said that although the Legislature adopts realistic budgets based on historical or known trends, it appropriates general fund balance every year to subsidize the airport and bus transportation enterprise funds. As a result, $3.5 million in operating surplus in 2012 resulted in the fund balance increasing by $2 million because $1.5 million was needed to subsidize the enterprise funds.
The report said that while the County’s budgeting practices have improved ﬁnancial conditions, the continued subsidizing of the enterprise funds will eventually impact those efforts. An additional $5.7 million was budgeted in 2013 and in the 2014 proposed budget to subsidize both funds.
The audit report recommended that the Legislature continue efforts to maintain the general fund balance at a reasonable level and that it review the enterprise funds’ operations and consider actions that would help make the funds more self-sufficient and less reliant on general fund subsidies.
“The report reinforces our efforts to replenish general fund balance and reduce taxpayer subsidies to the Dutchess County Airport and public transit,” said County Executive Marc Molinaro. “The recently completed operational and financial assessment provides important recommendations to maximize the airport’s economic impact and become self sufficient. We will also continue to evaluate opportunities for efficiencies and new revenue in our public transit operations, including maximizing advertising revenue potential and pursuing grant opportunities so we can continue to provide this vital service to those who need it.”
Molinaro also said that the audit underscored the need for relief from unfunded state mandates, which he said comprise 70 percent of the county’s budget.
“Mandate costs have become an overwhelmingly burden on our county taxpayers,” Molinaro said. “If Albany and Washington paid their own bills, we could pay ours and even reduce taxes.”