Local Government Publications

Search Audits for reports on municipalities and school districts dating back to 2014.

Cost-Saving Ideas > Capital Projects, Debt

February 2021 –

When preparing your annual operating budget for a water or sewer district, consider setting aside money in a capital or repair reserve fund to be used for future capital projects or certain repair costs. Planning today and saving incrementally can help reduce the financial impact of such expenses on your annual budget.

Establishing and funding allowable reserve funds for a specific intended purpose can smooth out spikes in both expenditures and revenues. Saving for future capital needs can also reduce or eliminate interest and debt issuance costs.
Updated February 2021 (Originally Issued January 2016)

Cost-Saving Ideas > Justice Court

January 2021 –

The financing of justice courts is a local responsibility and maintaining a court may pose administrative and financial challenges. As a result, there is growing interest by citizens and local governments to explore consolidation of justice courts, when practicable. In these cases, towns and villages should consider consolidating their justice courts. Benefits of consolidation include, but are not limited to, maximizing services by pooling resources and streamlining the court system by centralizing services.

This resource document provides a step-by-step breakdown of the consolidation process and outlines some of the relevant issues.
Updated January 2021 (Originally Issued January 2017)

Cost-Saving Ideas > General Oversight, Purchasing

January 2021 –

State contracts can provide many necessities for local governments and school districts like road salt, fuel, vehicles, heavy equipment, food, furniture, computer hardware and software, and much more. Goods and service contracts fall into three general categories: commodities, service and technology. Capitalizing on the State's buying power and expertise may result in lower prices and better quality goods and services.
Updated January 2021 (Originally Issued January 2016)

Cost-Saving Ideas > General Oversight, Payroll/Employee Benefits

January 2017 –

In many local governments and school districts, employees have the option to receive health insurance coverage after retirement. Among other things, the retirees may be:

  • allowed a continuation of coverage for surviving spouses or certain other eligible persons for a period of time after the eligible retiree dies.
  • required to contribute to the health insurance coverage costs.
  • offered subsidized health insurance costs by allowing the retiree to buy coverage at the group rate. 1

Containing health insurance costs should be a priority for local governments and school districts. One way to reduce health insurance costs is to pay premiums only for eligible retirees or their surviving spouses and dependents.

An audit of 20 school districts revealed ten school districts who collectively paid $239,000 in health insurance benefits for deceased or ineligible retirees.

Cost-Saving Ideas > Claims Auditing/Credit Cards, General Oversight

January 2017 –

Improving your local government's receipt collection system may get revenue into its bank account more quickly.

Start by evaluating the costs and benefits of various revenue collection alternatives, using measures such as:

  • How long does it take to process a tax or fee payment?
  • How many total collections are being processed?
  • What is the cost per transaction?
  • How convenient is the process for residents?

By becoming more efficient, your local government can possibly increase collections, lower processing costs and increase interest earnings.

Cost-Saving Ideas > General Oversight

January 2016 –

The internal auditor:

  • develops a risk assessment and ensures proper internal controls are in place and working;
  • performs an annual update on the risk assessment;
  • tests and evaluates one or more areas of the district’s operations periodically; and
  • prepares reports analyzing risk assessment findings and recommends changes for strengthening internal controls and reducing identified risks.

The internal auditor must report directly to the board.

Cost-Saving Ideas > General Oversight, Payroll/Employee Benefits

January 2016 –

Reducing the cost of employee salaries and benefits by even a small percentage can result in significant savings.

Employee salaries and benefits, including pension benefits, are large expenses for New York's local governments and school districts. These costs represent nearly 57 percent of annual budget expenditures, on average.

Overtime wages can significantly increase personal service1 and pension costs. For example, 8 to 30 percent of wages paid to highway employees in New York State are for overtime.

A written plan to guide the assignment of overtime hours in the most efficient and effective manner can help control overtime costs. When local governments and school districts analyze the factors that lead to overtime, they may be able to reduce or eliminate overtime through the use of alternate work schedules.

Cost-Saving Ideas > General Oversight

January 2016 –

As a member of a board of education (board), you’re responsible for ensuring the school budget is well managed and operations are cost effective. Auditing provides your board the best opportunity for improving fiscal management and protecting taxpayer dollars through expert and independent review.

Use this reference guide to familiarize yourself with the different roles and responsibilities in the audit process.

Cost-Saving Ideas > General Oversight, Payroll/Employee Benefits

January 2016 –

You can take steps to reduce the cost of unemployment insurance, which provides short-term financial assistance to people who become unemployed through no fault of their own. The New York State Department of Labor (DOL) determines who qualifies for benefits and individual employers fund their own programs.

Cost-Saving Ideas > Claims Auditing/Credit Cards, Payroll/Employee Benefits, Purchasing

January 2016 –

You must provide your employees workers’ compensation coverage as a mandatory benefit. Local governments can get insurance for workers’ compensation in one of four ways:

  • Purchase a policy from a private sector insurance carrier
  • Purchase a policy from the New York State Insurance Fund
  • Become self-insured as authorized by the Workers' Compensation Law
  • Participate in a county self-insurance plan as authorized by the Workers' Compensation Law
Cost-Saving Ideas > General Oversight

January 2016 –

The audit committee assists and advises the board on issues relating to the district’s internal and external audits.

Cost-Saving Ideas > Payroll/Employee Benefits, Purchasing

January 2016 –

As an employer, you should always look for ways to contain health insurance costs without cutting current benefit levels.

Cost-Saving Ideas > General Oversight, Purchasing

January 2016 –

To ensure your fleet operation is cost effective and efficient, you should establish a management policy that each department can monitor for compliance.

Essential to this oversight is keeping good records, such as vehicle daily mileage logs, fuel usage logs, and the cumulative costs of parts, labor and overhead by a vehicle over its life.

Because your municipality’s fleet and usage are unique, use these guidelines to craft an effective fleet management system best suited to your needs.

Cost-Saving Ideas > General Oversight

January 2016 –

Whether your municipality provides garbage collection services directly or by contract with a private company, citizens must receive the highest quality of service for the lowest possible cost.

To determine if your community’s system of collection is the most cost-effective, evaluate different methods and estimate the cost of each option. The local government, when considering which system of collection to use, should also consult with its legal counsel, as appropriate.

Cost-Saving Ideas > Purchasing, Reporting

January 2016 –

To effectively manage your local government’s capital assets, you must develop a long-term plan. The plan should address how you monitor and maintain assets and how much you can spend within your budget.

By developing a structured approach for assessing and funding capital assets, you can help avoid the unexpected, such as sudden road or building closures or cost overruns.

Cost-Saving Ideas > General Oversight, Purchasing

January 2016 –

You can realize significant savings for your school district or local government by paying less for energy and consuming less energy. Reducing energy consumption also makes communities greener.

Cost-Saving Ideas > General Oversight

January 2016 –

Find specific sections of the law related to capital asset management.

Cost-Saving Ideas > General Oversight

January 2016 –

When municipal employees travel on business, such as to attend conferences and training classes, generally you may only reimburse them for authorized expenses that they actually incur and are deemed necessary. By requiring travelers to document their expenses and follow set guidelines for reimbursement, you can cut costs and mitigate the risk of fraud.

Cost-Saving Ideas > General Oversight, Utilities

January 2016 –

Establishing an effective water accounting system is a necessary first step in controlling water losses and reducing water system costs.

The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established an industry goal of 10 percent for unaccounted water system losses. A water accounting system helps to track water throughout the system and identify areas that may need attention, particularly large volumes of unaccounted-for water.

Cost-Saving Ideas > Claims Auditing/Credit Cards

January 2016 –

When employees need to make small one-time purchases, it is often more convenient for them to pay with a credit card than to fill out a procurement request form and wait for it to be approved. This also saves time and energy for procurement staff.

The cost of this convenience is the heightened risk of inappropriate spending, such as wasteful or personal purchases. To ensure that credit cards are used only for approved and necessary expenses, local governments must have both a credit card policy and a system of internal controls in place.