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Colonie confronts deficit

An audit report released by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli places the current deficit for Colonie at nearly $18 million. The audit, which was released Wednesday, Feb. 27, examined the 18 months between January 2006 and June 2007. It found that many of the problems emerged from ineffective Town Board oversight.

Local officials have to manage public assets responsibly in good times and bad. It's pretty clear that wasn't happening under the prior administration in Colonie," said DiNapoli in a press release.

According to the Comptroller's report, the deficit was caused by allocating funds in excess of what were available, misjudging revenues and underestimating costs. This resulted in short-term borrowing from 2004 to 2006.

Brian Hogan, one of three remaining Republicans on the Colonie Town Board, said he believes a number of options, such as bonding the landfill, will bring about needed revenue right away.

"I think this year, we can get half this projected deficit," he said.

Hogan said increasing staff and energy costs are contributing to the deficit.

"Part of the issue is the increase in retirement, health insurance and energy costs," said Hogan.

Hogan said other measures, such as cutting down on outside contract use, selling Heritage Park, and acquiring the buybacks from the 2007-2008 Enterprise Fund, which includes funds such as Pure Waters and the Latham Water District, could help alleviate the financial burden.

But new Democratic Supervisor Paula Mahan cautioned that fixing the deficit may not be as easy as it seems.

"I don't think that's realistic," she said of Hogan's idea to find solutions within the year. "There's been a deficit for four years. If it was so easy, I don't understand why they didn't correct it years ago."

Added Mahan: "When drawing from Enterprise funds, there are certain rules you have to follow. You're only supposed to take so much. They [the old administration] were using those funds for operating costs."

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