North Tonawanda officials were oblivious to town's fiscal problems

Editorial Board

The Buffalo News

Aug 19, 2020

North Tonawanda finds itself in a fiscal wreck today, largely because the people in charge took their hands off the wheel.

The mayor and Common Council should have been informed of the state of the city’s finances. They weren’t. The state Comptroller’s Office issued a blistering and embarrassing report that spotlighted Mayor Arthur G. Pappas, the Common Council and Clerk-Treasurer Matthew L. Parish. The report indicated that none of them bothered to seek out or review regular financial reports.

Former City Accountant Amanda Reimer officially resigned Jan. 3. but stopped working for the city last August. The report indicated that no city fiscal activity was recorded after last August.

It gets worse. The auditors wrote that they warned the mayor, treasurer and several Council members that financial records were incomplete and inaccurate. Yet these individuals took no meaningful action and “continued to make key financial decisions without adequate information.”

North Tonawanda ran operating deficits in its general and sewer funds in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The solution: City officials filled the gap with “fund balance” surpluses built up in previous years.

Pappas said the city used transfers to avoid the interest cost of short-term borrowing, but the raid on those surplus funds leaves the city at risk for an actual emergency.

Alderman Austin J. Tylec says the city needs a fiscal stability committee to make decisions about the city’s finances at its public meetings. That may be. Officials have not been transparent – or competent. They let down the people they were elected to serve.