BY MICHAEL RICONDA
NEW CITY – In spite of a requirement outlined in the county charter, the County has been without an auditor since 2007. However, his department is crunching numbers again and exploring new avenues out of the county’s fiscal slump.
Bob Bergman, a temporarily-contracted county auditor who is expected to be appointed to a permanent position, issued a forecast to the County Legislature’s Budget & Finance Committee on Wednesday which largely confirmed the county’s recovery as mixed and alluded to some possible fixes. According to Bergman, “monumental” challenges still exist, but a recovery is beginning to emerge.
The role of a county auditor is largely investigatory. Hence, Bergman stated that as analysis continues, one of his main tasks will be finding potential opportunities and threats as the economy continues to change. According to him, there are already “a host of opportunities” for restructuring and reforming county government for greater fiscal stability.
One of the areas in which Bergman wants to focus is the budget process itself. Bergman explained he hoped modest changes can be made to accelerate the process and make more time for budget discussion and consensus.
“What’s being considered is to make the budget submission somewhat earlier so that we allow for collaborative analysis on the part of the legislature, the auditors of the county, and the state comptroller’s office,” Bergman said.
Bergman also hopes to unify data. He hopes a common set of information on the budget will help different departments-which sometimes record different figures-to stay on the same page.
Aside from general ideas for improving the process, observations and recommendations were largely in line with private auditors brought in to evaluate the county. After a number of years with unrealistic predictions, the county’s general fund revenues are still anticipated to meet expectations.
“Expenses have been fairly close to budget and they will continue to be so,” Bergman told the Legislature.
Not surprisingly, the hospital fund remains troubled, with Bergman announcing an estimated $24.6 million loss in 2014. Mental Health losses and particularly the clinic have been major contributing factors and Bergman explained one of the major challenges will be to determine why patient counts dropped from over 3,000 in 2011 to less than 1,000 this year.
Still, Bergman praised actions such as the transfer of inpatient and emergency services to Nyack Hospital as proactive and productive.
Bergman has been in his role for the past five months.