The Town of Oswego in Oswego County is working to improve its finances after a state audit revealed mismanagement that contributed to the loss of nearly 90 percent of its reserves.
The town only has about 8,000 residents and an annual budget of $2 million, but within just a three-year period from 2014 to 2016, the town board managed to spend $428,000 more than it collected - leaving its fund balance with just $51,000.
Town Supervisor Richard Kaulfuss says this deficit spending started long before he took office in 2016.
"We were eating up our reserves, and I did some charts and it looked like we were overestimating our revenues and underestimating our expenditures for about 10 years in a row," Kaulfuss said.
According to the New York State Comptroller's report, that was exactly the issue. The report said the board did not develop realistic budgets or adequately monitor them. Some appropriations accounts were overdrawn for months, a violation of town law, before budget modifications were made at the end of the year. Rising and unexpected costs exacerbated the problem.
Kaulfuss says the Town of Oswego is headed in the right direction now. The town board has raised taxes, reduced expenses and, under advisement from the comptroller, adopted a multi-year financial planning process. It also signed a new four-year contract with the union that represents town employees, which Kaulfuss says will save Oswego roughly $30,000 a year.