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OFFICE OF THE NEW YORK STATE COMPTROLLER

D IVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT


& SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY

Town of
Neversink
Internal Controls Over Payroll
and Justice Court Operations
Report of Examination
Period Covered:
January 1, 2008 — December 1, 2009
2010M-24

Thomas P. DiNapoli
Table of Contents

Page

AUTHORITY LETTER 2

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 3

INTRODUCTION 5
Background 5
Objective 5
Scope and Methodology 5
Comments of Local Officials and Corrective Action 6

PAYROLL 7
Segregation of Duties 7
Personnel Policies 8
Recommendations 9

JUSTICE COURT 10
Accountability 10
Annual Audit 11
Recommendations 11

APPENDIX A Response From Local Officials 13


APPENDIX B Audit Methodology and Standards 15
APPENDIX C How to Obtain Additional Copies of the Report 17
APPENDIX D Local Regional Office Listing 18

DIVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY 11


State of New York
Office of the State Comptroller

Division of Local Government


and School Accountability

April 2010

Dear Town Officials:

A top priority of the Office of the State Comptroller is to help local government officials manage
government resources efficiently and effectively and, by so doing, provide accountability for tax
dollars spent to support government operations. The Comptroller oversees the fiscal affairs of local
governments statewide, as well as compliance with relevant statutes and observance of good business
practices. This fiscal oversight is accomplished, in part, through our audits, which identify opportunities
for improving operations and Town governance. Audits also can identify strategies to reduce costs and
to strengthen controls intended to safeguard local government assets.

Following is a report of our audit of the Town of Neversink, entitled Internal Controls Over Payroll
and Justice Court Operations. This audit was conducted pursuant to Article V, Section 1 of the State
Constitution and the State Comptroller’s authority as set forth in Article 3 of the General Municipal
Law.

This audit’s results and recommendations are resources for local government officials to use in
effectively managing operations and in meeting the expectations of their constituents. If you have
questions about this report, please feel free to contact the local regional office for your county, as listed
at the end of this report.

Respectfully submitted,

Office of the State Comptroller


Division of Local Government
and School Accountability

2 OFFICE OF THE NEW YORK STATE COMPTROLLER


State of New York
Office of the State Comptroller
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Town of Neversink (Town) is located in Sullivan County and is governed by an elected Town
Board (Board), which consists of the Town Supervisor (Supervisor) and four Board members. The
Board is responsible for the general management and control of Town operations. The Supervisor
is the Town’s chief executive officer and chief fiscal officer and is responsible for the Town’s daily
operations, including maintaining accounting records and preparing and distributing various financial
reports to the Board. The Town employs a bookkeeper who is responsible for processing the Town’s
computerized payroll.

The Town Justice Court (Court) operates with two Town Justices (Justices) and one part-time Court
clerk. The Justices’ principal duties involve adjudicating legal matters within the Court’s jurisdiction
and administering moneys collected from bails, fines, surcharges, civil fees and restitutions, with
assistance of the Court clerk. The Board is charged with overseeing the Court’s financial activity.

Scope and Objective

The objective of this audit was to determine if Town officials properly managed Town operations for
the period January 1, 2008 to December 1, 2009. Our audit addressed the following related questions:

• Did Town officials ensure that internal controls over payroll were adequately designed?

• Did the Board and Justices provide adequate oversight of the Court’s financial activity?

Audit Results

Town officials did not ensure that internal controls over payroll were adequately designed. During our
audit period, the bookkeeper was responsible for all aspects of the payroll process with no oversight.
The Supervisor did not review the completed payrolls or certify that they were accurate. There was
only one collective bargaining agreement in the Town, which covered highway employees. There were
limited guidelines regarding the benefits of employees not covered by this agreement. In addition,
these non-highway employees were responsible for tracking their own leave time. As a result, there
was an increased risk that employees could receive wages, salaries and benefits to which they are not
entitled.

The Board and Justices did not provide adequate oversight of the Court’s financial activity. For
instance, the Justices did not ensure that the Court clerk prepared monthly bank reconciliations and
accountability analyses. In addition, the Board did not provide for an annual audit of the Court. As a

DIVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY 33


result, the Court had $2,964 in unidentified funds that went unnoticed until our audit, and officials have
since turned this money over to the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC).

Comments of Local Officials

The results of our audit and recommendations have been discussed with Town officials and their
comments, which appear in Appendix A, have been considered in preparing this report. Town officials
generally agreed with the findings and recommendations in our report and indicated they have initiated
corrective action.

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Introduction

Background The Town of Neversink (Town) is located in Sullivan County and


has a population of 3,561.1 The Town’s 2009 total appropriations
for all budgeted funds totaled approximately $3.9 million. The
Town provides various services to its residents, including general
government support, street maintenance and improvements, snow
removal and code enforcement. Town operations are financed
primarily by real property taxes and State aid.

An elected five member Town Board (Board) is the legislative


body responsible for the general management and control of Town
operations. The Board consists of the Town Supervisor (Supervisor)
and four Board members. The Supervisor is the Town’s chief
executive officer and chief fiscal officer and is responsible for the
Town’s daily operations, including maintaining accounting records
and preparing and distributing various financial reports to the Board.
The Town employs a bookkeeper who is responsible for processing
the Town’s computerized payroll.

The Town Justice Court (Court) operates with two Town Justices
(Justices) and one part-time Court clerk. The Justices’ principal
duties involve adjudicating legal matters within the Court’s
jurisdiction and administering moneys collected from bails,
fines, surcharges, civil fees and restitutions, with the Court clerk’s
assistance. The Board is charged with overseeing the Court’s financial
activity.

Objective The objective of this audit was to determine if Town officials properly
managed Town operations. Our audit addressed the following related
questions:

• Did Town officials ensure that internal controls over payroll


were adequately designed?

• Did the Board and Justices provide adequate oversight of the


Court’s financial activity?

Scope and We examined financial records and internal control practices for the
Methodology payroll and Court operations of the Town for the period January 1,
2008 to December 1, 2009.

We conducted our audit in accordance with generally accepted


government auditing standards (GAGAS). More information on

1
2007 estimate, U.S. Census Bureau
DIVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY 55
such standards and the methodology used in performing this audit is
included in Appendix B of this report.

Comments of The results of our audit and recommendations have been discussed
Local Officials and with Town officials and their comments, which appear in Appendix
Corrective Action A, have been considered in preparing this report. Town officials
generally agreed with the findings and recommendations in our report
and indicated they have initiated corrective action.

The Board has the responsibility to initiate corrective action. A


written corrective action plan (CAP) that addresses the findings and
recommendations in this report should be prepared and forwarded
to our office within 90 days, pursuant to Section 35 of the General
Municipal Law. For more information on preparing and filing your
CAP, please refer to our brochure, Responding to an OSC Audit
Report, which you received with the draft audit report. We encourage
the Board to make this plan available for public review in the Clerk’s
office.

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Payroll

The primary objective of internal controls over payroll is to ensure


that employees are only paid wages and salaries, and provided fringe
benefits, to which they are entitled. The Board is responsible for
approving written policies and procedures to delineate employee
responsibilities for preparing and disbursing payroll checks, reviewing
and certifying payrolls, and providing guidance for employee
entitlements, including the accrual and use of leave time.

Town officials did not ensure that internal controls over payroll
were adequately designed. For the fiscal year ended December 31,
2009, the Town spent approximately $1.4 million on salaries. The
Town’s bookkeeper was responsible for all aspects of the payroll
process during our audit period with no oversight, and the Supervisor
did not review the completed payrolls or certify that they were
accurate. Town officials entered into a six-year collective bargaining
agreement (agreement) with its highway employees on January 1,
2007. However, Town officials provided limited guidance regarding
the fringe benefits to be provided to Town employees who were not
covered by this agreement. In addition, employees not covered by the
collective bargaining agreement were responsible for tracking their
own leave time. As a result, there was an increased risk that these
employees could receive wages, salaries and fringe benefits to which
they were not entitled.

Segregation of Duties The Board is responsible for establishing policies and procedures
over the payroll process, and the Supervisor is responsible for
ensuring the proper implementation of these established controls.
These policies and procedures should ensure that no one individual
controls most or all phases of a transaction. In addition, each user’s
access rights to the payroll software must be restricted based on his
or her job function to prevent unauthorized changes from occurring.
For example, the same person should not be capable of, or be
responsible for, creating, updating and deleting employee records;
activating new employees after their information is initially entered;
inputting all payroll changes; collecting timesheets; entering hours
worked or salaries paid, and printing and distributing paychecks. If it
is not feasible to segregate duties, the Supervisor should implement
compensating controls, such as having someone independent of the
payroll process review completed payrolls. Further, the Supervisor
is required to certify completed payrolls. This certification should
include verifying that payrolls are based on actual hours/days
worked or authorized leave time, employees are paid in accordance
with Board-authorized rates, and net payrolls agree with the payroll
journals.
DIVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY 77
The Board did not establish policies and procedures to ensure that
internal controls over the payroll process were appropriately
designed. We found that the bookkeeper was responsible for virtually
all aspects of the payroll process, such as creating, updating and
deleting employee records; activating new employees after their
information is initially entered; inputting all payroll changes;
collecting timesheets; entering hours worked or salaries paid;
and printing and distributing payroll checks. Furthermore, Town
officials did not restrict users’ access rights to only those areas of the
payroll software needed to complete their job duties. For example,
the Supervisor’s assistant had access to all areas of the payroll
process, including the ability to make changes to salary rates and
add employees, even though it was not her responsibility to do so.
In addition, the Supervisor did not implement compensating controls
to minimize the risk associated with the lack of segregation of duties
and did not certify completed payrolls.

The Supervisor told us that the bookkeeper had always performed


all phases of the payroll process without oversight, and that he was
unaware that completed payrolls required certification. Prior to our
audit, Town officials were unaware that the payroll software was
capable of limiting user access rights; as a result, the Supervisor’s
assistant was granted full user access rights to the payroll software in
order to prepare payrolls in the bookkeeper’s absence.

Due to the lack of segregation of duties, we reviewed payroll


reports and personnel files2 and the payroll records of 27 employees
to determine if wages paid in 2008 and 2009 were in accordance
with Board-authorized rates. Our review did not identify any
significant deficiencies; however, there is an increased risk that
errors or irregularities could occur and go undetected without proper
segregation of duties.

Personnel Policies The Board must clearly define and authorize compensation to
ensure that employees receive only the salary and fringe benefits
that the Board intends for them to receive. The Board may establish
policies or pass annual resolutions for employees that are not covered
by individual employment contracts or collective bargaining
agreements. Specifics regarding fringe benefits, such as a detailed
leave accrual system,3 should be included in these policies. A good
leave accrual system must have supervisory oversight to ensure
that the accrual and use of leave is authorized and approved. An
employee’s leave time accumulation and use should be stipulated by
his or her employment contract, collective bargaining agreement, or
policy.
2
We compared the names and Social Security numbers of all active employees
from the Town’s payroll software to the Federal Social Security database.
3
Leave accruals represent time-off earned by employees.

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The Board did not clearly define and authorize compensation for all
Town employees. Only the highway employees have a collective
bargaining agreement. This agreement did not include any other
Town employees, such as elected, appointed and civil service
positions. In addition, the Board did not establish any policies to
address employees’ fringe benefits for those employees not covered
by the collective bargaining agreement, such as the accumulation and
use of leave time. Instead, Town officials used various parts of the
highway employees’ collective bargaining4 agreement as guidance
for all employees’ fringe benefits. In addition, employees not covered
by the collective bargaining agreement were responsible for tracking
their own leave time accruals and usage and were able to use leave
without prior supervisory approval.

The Supervisor told us that the Town has not had any problems with
employees’ fringe benefits and has not needed any other employment
contracts, collective bargaining agreements, or policies in the past.
The Supervisor also said that leave time had always been on the
honor system, and that he trusted his employees. In addition, he stated
that most Town employees have been employed for a long period of
time and know what benefits they are eligible for. Town officials were
working on an employee handbook to address some limited payroll
and personnel issues while we were on site.

Due to this lack of Board-provided guidance, we reviewed eight


employees’ (three highway and five non-highway employees) leave
time records for four pay periods (three in 2008 and one in 2009) to
determine if leave time earned was in accordance with the highway
employees’ agreement and whether all leave used was deducted from
the employees’ leave time records. We found minimal deficiencies
that we communicated to local officials.

Recommendations 1. The Board should adopt payroll policies and procedures to


address segregation of incompatible duties in the payroll process.

2. The Board should adopt policies, resolutions, employment


contracts or collective bargaining agreements for all Town
employees that, at a minimum, address employees’ fringe benefits
such as leave time accrual and usage.

3. The Board should establish policies to ensure that each employee’s


leave time record is authorized and approved by Town officials to
ensure time earned is allowed and that all leave taken is deducted
from the leave time record.
4
Highway employees are entitled to five days of personal leave and 12 days of sick
leave per year. In addition, they are entitled to between six and 31 days of vacation
leave depending on how many years they have worked at the Town.

DIVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY 99


Justice Court

A well-designed system of internal controls is necessary to ensure


that Court activity is properly recorded and reported. Justices are
responsible for adjudicating cases brought before their Court
as well as accounting for and reporting all Court-related financial
activities. To meet that responsibility, they must maintain complete
and accurate accounting records and safeguard all money collected.
Justices are responsible for the timely depositing of all money
collected and reconciling Court collections to the corresponding
liabilities (accountability analysis). Routine bank reconciliations
comparing adjusted bank balances to accounting records enable
Court personnel to verify the accuracy of financial records and
establish control over cash. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the
Justices to oversee the duties of the Court clerk and see that internal
controls are in place and working effectively, particularly when there
is limited segregation of duties. Court personnel should prepare an
accountability analysis and share this information with the Justices.
The Board has certain powers and duties with respect to overseeing
the financial affairs of the Court. These powers and duties include
performing, or hiring an independent auditor to perform, the audit of
the records and dockets of each Town Justice at least annually.

The Board and Justices did not provide adequate oversight of the
Court’s financial activity. For instance, the Justices did not ensure
that the Court clerk prepared monthly bank reconciliations or
accountability analyses, or retained the detailed listing of liabilities.
In addition, the Board does not provide for an annual audit of the
Court. The Town had $2,964 in unidentified funds that were turned
over to OSC as a result of our audit. The lack of monthly bank
reconciliations and accountability analyses together with the lack of
an annual audit are contributing causes for the unidentified moneys
that went unnoticed until our audit.

Accountability It is important for Court personnel to verify the accuracy of financial


records and establish controls over cash by reconciling bank
accounts. Court personnel should also prepare an accountability
analysis by comparing the amount of cash on hand plus the amount
on deposit in the bank with the detailed listings of amounts due to the
Justice Court Fund (JCF) plus any other liabilities. In addition, Court
personnel should retain a detailed listing of liabilities (bail records)
to facilitate accountability analysis preparation and help ensure
that liabilities can be easily identified in the future. Preparing bank
reconciliations and accountability analyses are critical procedures
that serve to document the status of money held by the Court at

10 OFFICE OF THE NEW YORK STATE COMPTROLLER


any point in time. This documentation also provides a means to
demonstrate that the Court is appropriately addressing its custodial
responsibilities.

During our audit period, the responsibility for completing monthly


bank reconciliations and the accountability analysis was delegated to
the Court clerk. We found that the Court clerk did not perform proper
accountability analyses, retain bail records, or prepare accurate bank
reconciliations. In addition, the assets exceeded the liabilities. Due
to the lack of records showing the Town’s liabilities, the Justices
were unable to reconcile the accounts or determine how long the
differences went unnoticed. In October 2009, the Court clerk had
performed an accountability analysis and determined that cash
exceeded liabilities by $2,144 for one Justice and $820 for the other
Justice. The Court clerk then turned the unidentified funds totaling
$2,964 for both Justices over to the JCF. As of November 2009, the
accounts for both Justices reconciled.

Until October 2009, the Court clerk did not correctly perform
accountability analyses or bank reconciliations and was unaware
that she was required to retain bail records. The Justices did not
provide oversight to ensure that the Court clerk was performing
her duties accurately. The lack of monthly bank reconciliations and
accountability analyses was a contributing cause for the unidentified
moneys that went unnoticed.

Annual Audit Town Justices are required to present their records and dockets to
their governing boards (i.e., Town Board) for audit at least once each
year. After the Board audits, or hires someone to audit, the financial
records and reports of the Court, the Town Clerk should enter the
results of that audit into the minutes of the Board’s proceedings. This
review will help the Board fulfill its oversight responsibilities by
developing appropriate safeguards to protect public assets from loss
or abuse.

The Board did not audit, or hire someone to audit, the Court’s
financial records during our audit period. According to the Court clerk
and the Supervisor, the Court clerk provided the Board with all the
required information, but the Board did not review it. The Supervisor
told us that he was unaware the Board was required to review the
Court’s financial records. If the Board had performed the annual
audit, as required, they may have detected that the bank account was
not reconciled.

Recommendations 4. Court personnel should retain bail records and prepare monthly
bank reconciliations, including an analysis of the monthly
liabilities and a comparison to the available cash on hand. The

DIVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY 11


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Justices should review these reconciliations and promptly
identify, investigate, and correct any differences noted.

5. The Board should monitor the financial activities of the Court


on an ongoing basis and audit, or hire someone to audit, Court
records annually.

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APPENDIX A

RESPONSE FROM LOCAL OFFICIALS

The local officials’ response to this audit can be found on the following page.

DIVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY 13


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14 OFFICE OF THE NEW YORK STATE COMPTROLLER
APPENDIX B

AUDIT METHODOLOGY AND STANDARDS

The objective of this audit was to determine if Town officials properly managed Town operations.
More specifically, we determined whether the internal controls over the payroll process were
adequately designed and if the Board and Justices provided adequate oversight over the Court’s
financial activity. To achieve our audit objective and obtain valid audit evidence, we performed the
following audit procedures:

For Payroll –

• We gained an understanding of the payroll process and the current internal control system.

• We reviewed the payroll records of 27 employees to determine if wages were paid in


accordance with Board-authorized rates and if employees’ withholdings and benefits were
authorized and accurate for ten of the 27 employees.

• We reviewed four health insurance buyouts to determine if the buyouts were accurate,
supported, and in accordance with the authorized policies.

• We reviewed direct deposits for two pay periods to determine if payments were properly
authorized and made accurately.

• We reviewed leave records for eight employees to determine if the accruals and usage were
accurate, recorded and approved.

For Court –

• We gained an understanding of the Court process and the existing internal control system.

• We reviewed accounting records to determine if they were complete, accurate, and up-to-date.

• We compared recorded cash receipts and disbursements to supporting documentation, such as


press-numbered duplicate receipt forms, case files, records of bail transactions, and reports to
OSC, to determine if cash receipts were properly maintained, recorded and deposited and if
cash disbursements were properly supported.

• We reviewed transactions as detailed on the bank statements and recorded in the Court’s
records to determine if they were for legitimate Court-related purposes and supported by
appropriate documentation.

• We reviewed bank account reconciliations to determine if cash balances per the accounting
records reconciled to adjusted bank account balances and to known court liabilities.

DIVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY 15


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• We reviewed and compared Court activity to Traffic Safety Law Enforcement and Disposition
(TSLED) reports prepared by and received from the New York State Department of Motor
Vehicles (DMV) to determine if cases reported to the DMV represented actual Court activity.

We conducted this performance audit in accordance with generally accepted government auditing
standards (GAGAS). Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient,
appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit
objective. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and
conclusions based on our audit objective.

16 OFFICE OF THE NEW YORK STATE COMPTROLLER


APPENDIX C

HOW TO OBTAIN ADDITIONAL COPIES OF THE REPORT

To obtain copies of this report, write or visit our web page:

Office of the State Comptroller


Public Information Office
110 State Street, 15th Floor
Albany, New York 12236
(518) 474-4015
http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/

DIVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY 17


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APPENDIX D
OFFICE OF THE STATE COMPTROLLER
DIVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY
Steven J. Hancox, Deputy Comptroller
John C. Traylor, Assistant Comptroller

LOCAL REGIONAL OFFICE LISTING


BUFFALO REGIONAL OFFICE GLENS FALLS REGIONAL OFFICE
Robert Meller, Chief Examiner Karl Smoczynski, Chief Examiner
Office of the State Comptroller Office of the State Comptroller
295 Main Street, Suite 1032 One Broad Street Plaza
Buffalo, New York 14203-2510 Glens Falls, New York 12801-4396
(716) 847-3647 Fax (716) 847-3643 (518) 793-0057 Fax (518) 793-5797
Email: Muni-Buffalo@osc.state.ny.us Email: Muni-GlensFalls@osc.state.ny.us

Serving: Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Serving: Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton,
Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, Wyoming counties Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren, Washington
counties

ROCHESTER REGIONAL OFFICE ALBANY REGIONAL OFFICE


Edward V. Grant, Jr., Chief Examiner Kenneth Madej, Chief Examiner
Office of the State Comptroller Office of the State Comptroller
The Powers Building 22 Computer Drive West
16 West Main Street – Suite 522 Albany, New York 12205-1695
Rochester, New York 14614-1608 (518) 438-0093 Fax (518) 438-0367
(585) 454-2460 Fax (585) 454-3545 Email: Muni-Albany@osc.state.ny.us
Email: Muni-Rochester@osc.state.ny.us
Serving: Albany, Columbia, Dutchess, Greene,
Serving: Cayuga, Chemung, Livingston, Monroe, Schenectady, Ulster counties
Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, Yates
counties

SYRACUSE REGIONAL OFFICE HAUPPAUGE REGIONAL OFFICE


Eugene A. Camp, Chief Examiner Ira McCracken, Chief Examiner
Office of the State Comptroller Office of the State Comptroller
State Office Building, Room 409 NYS Office Building, Room 3A10
333 E. Washington Street Veterans Memorial Highway
Syracuse, New York 13202-1428 Hauppauge, New York 11788-5533
(315) 428-4192 Fax (315) 426-2119 (631) 952-6534 Fax (631) 952-6530
Email: Muni-Syracuse@osc.state.ny.us Email: Muni-Hauppauge@osc.state.ny.us

Serving: Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Serving: Nassau, Suffolk counties


Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, St. Lawrence counties

BINGHAMTON REGIONAL OFFICE


Patrick Carbone, Chief Examiner NEWBURGH REGIONAL OFFICE
Office of the State Comptroller Christopher Ellis, Chief Examiner
State Office Building, Room 1702 Office of the State Comptroller
44 Hawley Street 33 Airport Center Drive, Suite 103
Binghamton, New York 13901-4417 New Windsor, New York 12553-4725
(607) 721-8306 Fax (607) 721-8313 (845) 567-0858 Fax (845) 567-0080
Email: Muni-Binghamton@osc.state.ny.us Email: Muni-Newburgh@osc.state.ny.us

Serving: Broome, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Serving: Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Westchester
Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan, Tioga, Tompkins counties
counties

18 OFFICE OF THE NEW YORK STATE COMPTROLLER