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Mark C. Poloncarz, Comptroller
08/16/06
POLONCARZ RELEASES BUFFALO CITY PARKS AUDIT

Comptroller's Audit Finds Significant Deficit of $776,531 for 2005

Erie County Comptroller Mark C. Poloncarz today issued his office's audit of the financial impact on Erie County ("County") from its takeover of the City of Buffalo's parks for 2004 and 2005, which included a contract compliance review of the Intermunicipal Cooperation Agreement for the operation of City of Buffalo Parklands entered into by the City of Buffalo and the County (the "ICA") and the agreement between the County and the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy to maintain the Olmsted Parks and Parkways ("Agreement").

The audit found significant annual deficits resulting from the County's operation of the City's Parks.

"This audit, a review of the fiscal impact of the parks takeover, not a review of the physical condition of the parks, reveals that the County has been forced to subsidize the operation of the City's Parks," said Poloncarz. "In 2005, Erie County's Parks Department's Division of City Parks ended the year with a $776,531 operating loss, and would have incurred a $1,276,531 loss from operations if it had not applied $500,000 from the County's reserves to the Division of City Parks."

"These findings show that the County's operation of the City of Buffalo's parkland is costing the County far more than the $1.8 million annual payment the County receives from the City," said Poloncarz. "When County management sought to takeover the City's Parks they stated that it would be budget-neutral to the County and would have no adverse fiscal impact on the County's general fund budget. Our audit confirms that is not the case. To the contrary, operating the City's Parks cost the County $1 million more than was budgeted for in 2005, and these structural deficits are expected to continue for the foreseeable future." Poloncarz emphasized: "These operating losses in the City Parks Division cannot be allowed to continue."

Major findings in the audit include:

"These are an example of significant management failures and a lack of internal controls," said Poloncarz. "Unfortunately these are not isolated cases. Rather, they reflect a wide-ranging lack of compliance with the agreements and a failure to adhere to basic accounting and budget principles."

He further added, "I call on all parties, that being the Parks Department, County Administration, Legislature, City of Buffalo and Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, to evaluate our findings and recommendations in order to rectify the problems we uncovered, while ensuring the City of Buffalo's parks remain open and accessible to the public in a financially feasible manner."

In addition to the completed City Parks Audit, the Erie County Comptroller's Office is conducting an audit of the Erie County Sheriff's Office Division of Jail Management and a separate audit on the County's receipt and use of Homeland Security funds.

A copy of the audit can be found at the Office of the Comptroller's website at: http://www.erie.gov/comptroller/county_audits.asp