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Report: Hempstead Sanitary District No. 2 taxes higher than needed

A state comptroller’s audit of the Town of Hempstead Sanitary District No. 2 found that the board of commissioners issued higher tax levies than necessary over three years and did not get bids or purchase orders for goods and services.

The district picks up refuse and recycling for 55,000 homes and businesses in Baldwin, Roosevelt, South Hempstead and parts of Uniondale, Rockville Centre and Freeport, according to the comptroller’s report.

Groups circulated a petition to dissolve the district in 2012 in the hopes of trimming property taxes, but the effort failed.

In the comptroller’s report, released last Friday, auditors concluded that the board of commissioners never used $1.6 million in unrestricted fund balances between 2013 and 2015 because commissioners overbudgeted expenditures.

The unrestricted fund balances were 78 percent to 85 percent of the following year’s budgets over the past three years, the report said, resulting in tax levies that were higher than necessary.

Auditors recommended that the district use the surplus to pay for one-time expenditures, fund reserves or reduce the tax levy.

Doug Wiedmann, secretary to the board, said sanitary district officials are following the comptroller’s recommendations.

“We’re trying to look at it [the audit] as a collaborative effort” to be fiscally responsible,” Wiedmann said Thursday.

In a response letter to the auditors, district chairman John Cools wrote that the board of commissioners realizes the unrestricted fund balance is “in excess and has been working to reduce that.” He wrote that the district increased the fund balance a few years ago because of several lawsuits that have since concluded, and officials will determine what can be used to reduce taxes.

The sanitary district also failed to get requisitions, purchase orders or bids for $713,129 worth of goods and services, the comptroller’s report said.

“As a result, there is an increased risk that budget appropriations could be overspent and that the goods and services procured will not be appropriate, necessary and acquired at the best cost,” the report said.

Cools wrote that the board will review its procurement and purchasing policies.

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