Monday, September 27, 2010


Auerbach Seeks Monies That Could Offset Property Taxes

KINGSTON, NY (September 27, 2010)… Ulster County has a modest hotel-motel occupancy tax and Comptroller Elliott Auerbach wants to ensure that it stays that way. Ulster’s Finance Department currently collects a 2% “bed tax” as compared to neighboring counties who have tax rates of four (4 ) and five (5) percent and Auerbach wants to keep it at that level so that Ulster County resorts remain competitive.

What the Comptroller has issue with are the dozens of cases of unreported, under-reported, delinquent and uncollected taxes from hotels, motels, beds and breakfasts, inns and vacation homes that have not met their obligations. Earlier this year, David OHalloran, chairman of the county’s lodging coalition estimated that “there are some places that do not collect the tax like they’re supposed to.” He estimated that “30-40 hotels and probably 100 percent of vacation home rentals” don’t pay.

Auerbach agreed when he pointed out that according to a 2009 study by Tourism Economics, visitors in Ulster County spend $167 million on lodging in 2009. “By my calculation two percent of that $167 million is $3.3 million in revenue yet the County’s Annual Financial Reports for 2008 and 2009 indicate revenues of $1,025,522.00 and $964,038.00 respectively.

“Our Revenue Trends report released in July 2010 raises the bar on the importance of focusing on revenues,” said Comptroller Auerbach, “we are in no position to be leaving this money on the table. We conducted a search of hotel/motel properties in the County and found ninety (90) not on the County’s master list.”

“Within the test group of 23,” said Auerbach, “we found that 96 opportunities to generate revenue were missed.” The review found a pattern of failures to send late notices, level penalties, or charge interest to operators who did not file, did not file timely, and did not file complete returns.

“There are issues of equity as well,” said the Comptroller, “we have operators who are diligently collecting and paying the tax and it is not fair that others should skate by and either avoid the tax altogether or just file returns whenever they want.”

One of the report’s recommendations is for the Department of Finance to coordinate with the Health Department on identifying properties that need to be brought current and into compliance with the law.

The Comptroller said that the next step for his office will be to audit tax returns filed by operators.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Ulster Comptroller Releases First On- Line Independent Financial Audit

KINGSTON, NY (September 23, 2010)… Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach announced that the 2009 audit of Ulster County’s books and records is complete and, for the first time, is available for immediate public inspection at the Ulster County Comptroller’s website.

“Financial audits are done to protect the public, not government,” said Auerbach, “so it is important the public have ready access to the audit.”

Members of the public rely on audits to understand the financial well-being of the County, to learn how their tax dollars are spent and to make decisions on how vote, explained Auerbach.

“Annual independent audits by the Comptroller are so important to public integrity that the County Charter mandates the Legislature fund the audit annually,” said Auerbach. The first among the Comptroller’s duties in the Charter is to “examine, audit and verify all books, records and accounts kept by the various administrative units, offices and officials paid from County funds…”

“I am pleased to report that the audit found that in all material respects the County’s financial statements are fairly presented,” said Auerbach.

Financial audits records provide an independent, professional opinion on the reliability of the County’s financial statements. Financial statements represent the financial condition of the County. Financial condition results, in part, from the management of the County’s finances by the Executive and from financial management policies the Legislature may or may not have adopted.

“Another first for Ulster County is that this audit was overseen by the independent Office of the Comptroller,” said Auerbach, “County taxpayers can be assured that no “Enron-style” audits will result during my watch.”

The 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report can be found at www.ulstercountyny/resources/comptroller
# # #

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Doing Things Right vs Doing The Right Thing

Proposals Should Have Been Sought For Professional Services

KINGSTON, NY (September 16, 2010)…The Ulster County Legislature will vote at their September 21, 2010 session to approve a $70,000 contract with O’Conner Davies Muns and Dobbins, LLP (ODMD) negotiated without the benefit of a Request for Proposal (RFP) and in violation of the Legislature’s own Purchasing Policy. “I certainly do not want to impede the Legislature from hiring a consulting firm to assist them in reviewing and analyzing the County Executive’s proposed 2011 budget and provide them with a comprehensive report on its findings. I would have thought, however, that several competitive proposals would serve everyone’s best interest when spending taxpayer dollars,” said Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach.

“Absent of proposal requests or quotes how can the Legislature ensure that public funds are prudently spent,” Auerbach explained to the Budget and Finance Committee. The Committee has taken the position that the proposed contract with ODMD was negotiated under a provision in the Policy entitled Exceptions to Procurement Laws and Policies.

Auerbach explained that based on the procurement policy adopted by the Legislature in compliance with NYS General Municipal Law 104-b, the consulting services to be provided by ODMD: (1) constitute a professional service, (2) which is not subject to negotiation by the Director of Purchasing, and (3) requires the County undergo a Request for Proposals (RFP) process in order to select an appropriate contractor. “Despite instruction by the Purchasing Office of the requirement to procure the service through the RFP process, it was not,” said Auerbach.

“My position is that contracts for professional service must be awarded in full compliance with the County’s Procurement Policy and Guidelines. Given the state of the economy, this is an exception I will make solely in deference to the potential harm to County residents if the Legislature does not have the professional guidance it seeks in evaluating and enacting a County Budget for 2011,” said Auerbach.

In response to the Comptroller’s findings, both the Attorney for the Legislature and the County Attorney’s Office are of the opinion that the Comptroller has no standing with regard to the approval of the contract.

“Not so,” said the Comptroller. “Both the County Charter and Administrative Code impart clear authority and obligation to assure that claims or charges against the County, no matter the form, are lawful. I have made it clear,” said Auerbach, “that my interest in this matter is to protect the use of public funds and I will fulfill that duty without hesitation.”

The firm, O’Connor Davies Munns & Dobbins, LLP is a large consulting and accounting firm with offices in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Ulster comptroller secures compliance with Social Services contract agency

KINGSTON – Ulster County Social Services contract agency Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. has a $500,000 contract with the county, but wasn’t submitting claims in compliance with their agreement and was sending bills, and being paid, for more than their monthly maximum allowance.

County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach’s office caught the lack of accountability with the agency that provides preventative service to children. He informed officials of the non-profit, who agreed to provide all of the appropriate documentation to be paid monthly.

“This is a victory all around,” said Auerbach. “Bills to DSS will include detail necessary for them to determine its accuracy and taxpayers can be assured they are only paying for services rendered and consistent with the contract.”

In his 2011 budget request, Auerbach is seeking two staff from the DSS finance office be assigned to his office. “In this way we can keep those staff at DSS, but have them trained by and reporting to me in compliance with charter requirements.”
( Weekend
September 4-5, 2010

Copyright © 2010 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc)