Forestville bringing in help to investigate $247,000 budget problem

FORESTVILLE – In light of a $247,000 debt looming over the village of Forestville for the 2014-2015 budget, the village is seeking state help.

In 2009, the village issued a bond anticipation note to cover demolition costs, but did not seek long-term financing for the debt. After checking back, the BAN was later listed as a revenue anticipation note with the village expecting grant funding.

However, after combing through village records and contacting the state, village officials found no proof of any grants.

“The New York State Department of Transportation was contacted in an effort to substantiate the $175,000 grant upon which the November 2012 RAN was approved. After reviewing its records, NYS DOT has verbally stated that to date, they can find proof of neither a grant award nor a grant application in any such amount.

“We are awaiting written confirmation of that. Inquiries have also been made of former village staff and counsel, from which we are also awaiting a response,” Mayor Linda Aures said in her comments during the recent village board meeting.

Aures said in light of this, the village has asked for additional help investigating the debt.

“We have also reached out to authorities from several state and federal agencies for assistance, guidance and direction. Several have requested additional documentation. Among these, the NYS Office of the State Comptroller has already scheduled to have personnel in the village this week to specifically investigate the validity of the RAN and review the village’s cash and reserves situation. In addition to any technical services they can provide, next steps will be dependent on their findings,” Aures added.

Village Attorney Michael Sullivan explained there are no updates with the bank, but that the tax levy cap override the village passed in a local law at its last meeting was “a big deal.”

He said this, along with the board’s decision to pay back the loan in one year and get a budget approved early, are all positives in the bank’s eyes.

He said the village has not been served with litigation for the unpaid RAN, but expects it will be.

“Litigation can be withdrawn at any point, but if you miss a deadline, then they can sue,” he said.

Sullivan echoed the mayor, saying recourse after the comptroller’s investigation will depend on the findings.

“We need to find out what was done, then we can decide the proper means to address it, whether it’s action for damages or something more serious will depend on what they find,” he said.

He said the comptroller should have findings in two to four weeks and will also be examining the village’s budget lines to help it establish its true unexpended balance, which after the fiscal year is ended is converted into unappropriated fund balance. He explained the bank would like the village to pay some of its debt from this fund balance, but at this time it is not sure of the amount.

The village will meet with proposed Northside Water District customers on Feb. 20. It will hold its next regular meeting on Feb. 25.