The Suffolk Legislature’s finance committee unanimously approved a waiver Tuesday that will allow the county Historical Society to get $305,000 in county funding that has been delayed since January because the group’s administrative costs exceeded 20 percent of its budget.
Society officials said the limit — which county law has imposed on other nonprofit county agencies several years — had never been applied to the society which has received county funding since 1934. Officials say they only became aware of the restrictions when the Comptroller’s office made a new ruling early this year that the society is covered by the law.
Robert Anrig, the society’s treasurer, said the society’s administrative costs which total 37 percent in the 2014, only appear high because the society owns its own building and has high depreciation and insurance costs among its administrative expenses.
The Comptroller’s office, Anrig added, has indicated that portions of those costs can be allocated to various society programs, but the society’s outside auditors were unwilling to overhaul the already finished 2014 audit unless the group paid another $10,000 to $15,000. He said that auditors will changes the way those are expenses are treated in the 2015 and 2016 audits, which would put administration costs at only 19.9 percent of the group’s $501,000 budget.
The society, which operates out of a building on Main Street in Riverhead serves as a museum, an archive for county records and a repository of historical artifacts, dating back to Colonial times. Beyond the county, the society is funded from membership fees, fees for use of some historic photos, a gift shop and special events.
The full legislature will vote on request for a waiver at next Tuesday’s meeting in Hauppauge. Legis., Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) backed the resolution and expects approval by lawmakers. “They were being held to a standard they didn’t even know existed, “ said Cilmi, and a waiver ”would avoid the only public cost of going back and go back and having the audit redone.”