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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Audits of Local Governments and School Districts

City of Ithaca – Departmental Operations (2012M-41)


Released: August 24, 2012 -- [read complete report - pdf]

Purpose of Audit

The purpose of our audit was to determine if the City could achieve cost savings opportunities for the period January 1, 2010, to September 21, 2011.

Background

The City of Ithaca is located in Tompkins County and has approximately 30,000 residents. The City is governed by a 10-member Common Council. The Controller is the chief fiscal officer and is responsible, along with the Council, for preparation of the budget and the issuance of debt. The City's general fund budget for the 2011 fiscal year was $49,207,984.

Key Findings

We identified a total of up to $739,000 in annual cost savings opportunities for the City in the areas of debt issuance, police department overtime, use of the centralized garage, and the refuse fund.

  • City officials have incurred, or expect to incur, avoidable expenditures for interest payments totaling $313,000 on debt that was longer than the items' useful lives.
  • The City also could save $234,000 per year in Police Department overtime costs by hiring five new officers.
  • The Fire and Police Departments are paying, on average, up to $66,000 per year more for vehicle maintenance services than necessary.
  • City officials have not sufficiently evaluated their refuse collection services. As a result, the City has incurred consistent operating deficits in the refuse fund, and the 2010 operating deficit was $126,000. The City could eliminate these deficits by decreasing its costs and/or increasing participation in its refuse operation.

Key Recommendations

  • Ensure that debt is not issued for longer than an item's useful life.
  • Consider filling open police officer positions by reassigning current officers' duties or by hiring new officers to reduce overtime costs.
  • Require that the Police and Fire Departments use the centralized garage for vehicle maintenance.
  • Evaluate the refuse collection operations and develop a plan to ensure that the refuse fund is self-supporting and focus on participation rates of residents, routing, and work schedules.

Local Government and School Accountability Contact Information:

Phone: (518) 474-4037; Email: localgov@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller, Division of Local Government and School Accountability
110 State Street, 12th Floor; Albany, NY 12236