BY MICHAEL RICONDA
NEW CITY – Rockland County appeared to be in good fiscal shape in the last fiscal year, according to preliminary findings by auditors contracted to examine the county’s finances.
According to draft figures compiled by O’Connor Davies, the audit firm tasked with examining the county’s fiscal state, the county did well last year, jumping up to a $7 million surplus.
The major factor contributing to the surplus appeared to be $96 million in deficit bonds which were approved by the state and sold on the open market by the county last year and the premiums accrued from those bonds. Overall, the bonds improved the total general fund balance from a deficit of $50 million to a surplus of $61 million.
The county’s unassigned fund balance, a catch-all category for unallocated items in the budget, was lifted partway out of its own deficit as well, rising from $138 million deficit to a $29.9 million deficit.
Some overestimation of revenues, a persistent issue with county finances which contributed to a financial crisis in the 2000s, were also present, but a positive variance emerged for 2014 regardless. O’Connor Davies found the county’s revenues were short $20 million, but according to Finance Commissioner Stephen DeGroat, $43 million in cuts to expenditures and subsequent effects on state aid claims netted out to a positive variance of $23 million.
Though the report from O’Connor Davies awaits finalization before it can be officially received by the county in September, another report by KPMG detailing Summit Park’s finances has already been received and filed. Nor surprisingly, the report echoes past audits by stating the hospital and nursing home, which are expected to be sold to Sympaticare LLC for $36 million within the coming months, cannot not survive without significant funding from the county.
At the same time, losses sustained by the facility appear to be diminishing. According to the audit, the facility lost $7.2 million in 2014, down from a $16 million loss in 2013 and a $27 million loss in 2012. The major reason for this appears to be intergovernmental transfer revenue (IGT), money from the state which spiked revenues.
The county continues to contribute funds to Summit Park as it prepares to sell the facility, transferring $18 million in the last fiscal year. Much of this came from a $12 million contribution the county had to match to a $24 million retroactive IGT adjustment enacted by the state.
The hospital’s assets saw a decrease from $51 million to $42 million. However, there was also a drop in liabilities from $95 million to $194 million. The facility still has $16 million in unpaid debt service.
Summit Park’s Hospital and nursing care center have cleared almost all regulatory hurdles for sale, including lawsuits from the Civil Service Employees Association and Northern Services Group, a failed bidder for the facility. According to DeGroat, the county is ready to close the book on the facility and it is expected that the lease will be transferred to Sympaticare sometime within the next year.