Two fire districts subject of Comptroller audits

ALBANY – Reports detailing separate audits for the Bellevue Fire District and Forks Fire District have been released by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office.

The audit for the Bellevue Fire District focused on if the district was following their procurement policy between January 1, 2016, and November 22, 2017.

The comptroller’s office found that district officials did not seek bids for three purchases totaling $142,346; $43,129 for general insurance coverage in 2016 and $38,138 in 2017.  The district also failed to solicit bids for a $61,080 parking lot paving project. They obtained quotes instead.

The audit also focused on 32 purchases totaling $163,885 that were required by policy to
have two or three verbal or written quotes.

“Officials could provide no evidence of quotes for 28 purchases totaling $134,579. These purchases included $31,342 for fire truck maintenance, $13,935 for pagers and 2-way radios, $12,065 for cleaning services and $10,908 for emergency lighting,” the report said.

Also, the district could not show evidence to the comptroller’s office as to how they obtained three quotes before choosing a lawn care service for $6,975.

The district was “pleased” the audit did not find discrepancies in the accounting records and only resulted in guidance measures on how to further implement the procurement policy.

“We will ensure that any District official proposing a purchase provide documentation to the Board of the appropriate number of verbal or written quotes required by the purchasing policy for each proposed purchase, before the board approving the purchase,” Chairman Michael Rusiniak wrote.  “We will also ensure that the evidence of the verbal or written quotes is maintained as part of the Treasurer’s documentation for each purchase.”

Across town, the audit for Forks Fire District focused on the fact the Board of Fire Commissioners did not adopt financial plans for the maintenance of a reasonable level of fund balance, the funding, and use of reserves and a multiyear financial plan.

Their audit ran from January 1, 2016, to January 12, 2018.  The comptroller’s office found that the district’s two capital reserve funds increased by $470,000 between January 2016 and December 2017 after the district imposed a real property tax levy of 6 percent.

“Although the capital reserves make up a significant amount of the total fund balance, the Board has not adopted a multiyear financial plan to address the District’s operational and capital needs,” the report said.

“By adopting a multiyear financial plan, District officials will be able to better demonstrate to taxpayers the reasons for any tax increases and why operating surpluses are used to fund reserves beyond the amounts included in the adopted budget.”

The district said the two capital reserve funds were for multiyear expenses.  One fund is for building improvements to the District’s headquarters on Broadway, and the other will be used to purchase two new fire trucks.

“The district has had a long-term financial plan in place for several years, and that same long-term plan spans over the next several years.  The district at all times has carefully hewn to that long-term plan,” Chairman Jeffery Place wrote in the report.

The report cited the lack of resolutions establishing the funds and the fact no permissive referendum was held, which is required by law when a special fund is established.

The district said it would hold a special election to present the permissive referendum to the public.

These two audits come months after the State Comptroller’s office audited the Walden Fire District.