The decision from the state comptroller's office to audit the city of Amsterdam's books is long overdue. While officials are naturally nervous about what might be discovered during the course of the study, the report will likely shed light on the exact state of the city's finances and can help lawmakers be better stewards of the purse strings down the road.
The audit will also benefit those who pay property taxes in the city. They deserve to know how much money the city has, along with an accurate accounting of what's coming in and what's being spent.
For several years, anyone who has been watching what happens at City Hall knows the financial records are in shambles. Ronald Wierzbicki, the late city controller, complained often that the books weren't in order and that he needed help to straighten out the mess. His predecessor, Heather Reynicke, pushed for and got a new computer system to modernize the record-keeping after frequently saying the old system made it hard to keep track of the money.
Meanwhile, Common Council members have been frustrated because they haven't been able to make informed decisions when it comes to handling the city budget. Actual dollar amounts have been hard to come by, as have regular financial reports. In fact, we believe the last few city budgets have been somewhat of a farce because lawmakers -- some by their own admission -- have adopted spending plans knowing that the numbers may or may not be 100 percent accurate or even real.
That's just bad business for everyone -- for the people who are running the city and the people who are paying for it.
While we understand why it was made, we disagree with Mayor Ann Thane's request to push the audit back a few months. We recognize that it may take some time for the city to get a handle on the operations of the finance office after Wierzbicki's unfortunate and unexpected passing last Friday, but it seems now would be the perfect time for state auditors to start their work. The city is in a period of transition, and it would be better for officials to have a clearer picture of the books -- and how to fix them -- sooner rather than later.
Fourth Ward Alderman David Dybas is right when he says the city has spent too much time pining over the condition of Amsterdam's financial records. The main objective now should be to get them fixed, end the excuses, and move on.