Amsterdam may enlist outside help with city finances
AMSTERDAM City officials are hoping a review by private accountants can help bring some sense to city finances.
After nearly a year of work by Ron Wierzbicki, who took over as controller at the start of 2012, officials say the city is no closer to balancing its books than it was a year ago.
Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane said Wierzbicki has “really had trouble getting his arms around” the city’s finances.
“We depend on our Finance Department for accurate and timely information,” she said.
Efforts to reach Wierzbicki were unsuccessful Wednesday and Thursday. Eleven months ago, he attributed his problems to data left to him by his predecessor, Heather Reynicke.
The Common Council next week is slated to review a proposal from the Purinton & Morris CPA firm of Wilton. The proposal calls for the accountants to help the city get a handle on a list of topics including back balance reconciliation, capital projects accounting and a schedule of expenditures for federal grant funding.
The proposal suggests many of the details of these budgetary functions are unknown.
“It is our understanding the number of federal programs, the nature of the federal assistance, the completeness of the records and compliance with state, federal and contract requirements are not certain,” the proposal states.
Thane said state and federal grants number in the millions of dollars.
According to the proposal, work as described will cost $14,875, unless the scope of that work changes, at which point the going rate is $175 per hour.
The city would get a 2 percent discount if it pays its bill by the 25th of the month in which the invoice is submitted, according to the proposal.
Fourth Ward Alderman David Dybas said the city hasn’t yet put its annual update document together to account for the 2011-12 budget year. That document was due to the state Comptroller’s Office in November.
Another form of help may come from a new position the city is seeking applicants for — a deputy controller with accounting experience. Planned for providing “administrative oversight” of the city’s accounting operations, the candidate is expected to have a four-year degree in business administration plus four years of accounting experience, preferably within government.
The city is offering a salary of between $50,000 and $70,000 for the full-time job, plus benefits. Wierzbicki, who retired after a career as an accountant and auditor for New York state, earns a salary of $55,000 for the elected position.
The Common Council has discussed modifying the City Charter to change the controller position from elected to appointed. Thane said this idea, which has been placed on hold while work ensues to balance the books, would enable the city to hire a professional accountant seasoned in government work.
“It’s critically important that we have an appointed controller because an elected position is just a popularity contest and you may not get the person with the ability to manage a $27 million budget,” she said.