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Cortland Mayor Reveals Inappropriate/Unapproved Spending Under Previous Administration – Announces Austerity Budget and Hiring Freeze

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In the City of Cortland Mayors 2024 City Budget Message, Mayor Steve spoke on the city assessing financial and operational practices from the previous administration.


In Mayor Steve’s letter, he pointed out his review of bills to the City of Cortland during his first weeks in office. What he found during that review was Cortland paying for utilities on properties the city didn’t own, leased or even used. Scott Steve took office back in January 2022.

“Two separate audits by the state comptroller found over $200,000 in inappropriate or unapproved spending in 2018 and 2019. Comptroller’s audits as far back as 2010 identified similar problems that went uncorrected.” Steve says in the letter.

The letter continued on saying a 2019 independent audit found weaknesses in the city financial reporting and Cortland needing their financial activity be monitored and recorded on a routine basis.

“For years, annual budgets were developed and approved without independent audits from the previous year being done in time to inform future financial decisions.” the letter continued.

The Common Council and Mayor have worked to correct the previous operating deficits from previous years after receiving the 2021 and 2022 financial statements.

“Furthermore, while many internal efficiencies have occurred, such as cross training functions of the Finance staff and additional controls with the City’s bank accounts, more items have been uncovered including inaccurate pay code calculations, improper expenditure reduction practices, and issues reconciling of finances across multiple systems.”

In an effort to save additional cash, Mayor Steve has announced that the City of Cortland will focus on an austerity budget for the remainder of the year. An austerity budget are strict economic policies that a government imposes to control public growing debt. The austerity budget will include the suspension of certain programs and non-essential services.

“Despite many intentional efforts, issues that were identified for the current year budget, continue to plague our City’s finances. Costs for Parker School are more than double what was anticipated requiring a $60,000 increase in the budget for a total of $97,000 for utilities and insurance; lack of years of preventative maintenance on HVAC, electrical and plumbing has transpired into emergency repairs for which there is no planned funding.”

The tentative 2024 budget will include a 4% tax rate increase. The average homeowner with a home valued at $90,000 will have a $64.20 increase in their yearly taxes. The City will also have a Wastewater fund increase of 4.8%. Quarterly billing for a residential sewer will go from $37.50 to $39.30, which is a $7.20 increase for a year for a residential property that receives a minimum bill.

You can find Mayor Steve’s full letter regarding the 2024 budget as well as the proposed budget, budget hearing dates and times, public hearing schedule, and final vote date, HERE.

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