Comptroller plans ORDA audit

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By Jay Braman Jr.
Less than six months after taking over the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) will face an audit by the state comptroller.

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli will launch a full financial audit of ORDA after a report by his office found that financial issues persist at a time when its operations have been expanded to include the Catskills-based Belleayre Mountain Ski Center.

“ORDA’s venues have long been an essential part of the North Country economy, which heightens the need to ensure its stability and accountability to the public,” DiNapoli said. “We will examine selected financial management practices related to payroll, procurement and other areas.”
In the report, released in March, the comptroller states that the Belleayre takeover “comes at a time when the authority continues to grapple with financial challenges” and points to revenue issues. It also details operational losses and a reliance on a line of credit from a private bank, among other sources, to meet its spending needs.

“The authority received $4.7 million in state appropriations in its 2012 fiscal year, compared to just over $8 million in 2008,” the report states. “Fluctuations in operating revenues are another challenge; such revenues decreased by $3.1 million in the authority’s 2012 fiscal year due to warm weather that winter, according to ORDA’s 2012 financial statements. “

The comptroller also believes that ORDA’s money issues will not only affect itself. “The broad scope of entities with a financial stake in ORDA demonstrates the importance of ensuring that the operations and finances of even a relatively small public authority, such as ORDA, be transparent and that the authority be fully accountable to the public. “

The comptroller said ORDA is important to the Adirondack economy. “It is because of this vital role, along with continuing fiscal pressures at the state and local levels, that Comptroller DiNapoli has highlighted ORDA,” the report notes.

“These factors underscore the need to ensure that ORDA’s operations, along with its use of financial assistance from the state and other entities, are efficient and effective.”

Operating shortfall
In the last reported fiscal year, during which ORDA did not yet operate Belleayre, ended on March 31, 2012. During that year ORDA spent $40.4 million and took in $39.7 million in revenues, which included state and local financial contributions. The authority’s financial statements identified an operating loss of $16.9 million in 2012. ORDA has maintained up to a $7 million private line of credit; which it calls on to fill periodic funding shortfalls in operating revenues, and to fund projects while it awaits payment of ESDC grant funding.
The state’s fiscal year ended Sunday.