UTICA – There’s a new debate brewing at Utica City Hall.
A member of the Common Council is calling into question the money in the city’s Capital Improvement Trust, or the “Water Trust.” This is the account from when the water system was sold to the Mohawk Valley Water Authority.
According to Utica Comptroller Bill Morehouse, the city of Utica gets $480,000 per year through 2036, and there is back and forth on what the balance is in that account. Democratic Councilor Joe Marino says the bank account should equate to what the budget shows, and in this case, it doesn’t add up.
Morehouse says that one of the amendments being discussed for the city budget was to increase the amount of CIT Fund being used by an additional $450,000, which Morehouse says isn’t possible. A notice from the city’s corporate counsel sent out on Wednesday states that $854,116.38 is the maximum amount (principal and interest) that can be appropriated for the upcoming year’s budget, and the budget already included $750,000, which meant only the remaining $104,116 could be added to that amount.
“As of this year, at that point, we will have $1.7 million,” Morehouse said. “So, you can take 50 percent of that – $850,000, and that’s what was the allowable [amount]. In the original budget, there was $750,000 already proposed, so there was only another $100,000 left.”
“What the audit will show is the transparency that just genuinely does not come out of City Hall,” said Marino, a member of the Common Council’s Finance Committee. “There is a lack of transparency, there is a clear case of shell game going on with our money. And quite frankly, it appears to be one of the most incompetent budget processes I’ve seen in my seven years.”
“There’s no conspiracy at city hall here,” Morehouse said. “There’s no … nobody is hiding anything. We’re here to do what's best for the people and the mayor has done that.”
Marino says the Common Council keeps receiving conflicting information, and he’s requesting that an outside agency handle the audit.