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State Comptroller's Office: Peekskill Audit Findings "Not Unusual"

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. -- Though a newly released audit of the city payroll by the office of New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli has found some errors, Peekskill's comptroller suggests an outdated software system hampered the review's ability to assess information. Additionally, a spokesperson for the State Comptroller's office acknowledged that the findings are not "unusual."

The office conducted a study of the budgeted expenditures for the 2011 fiscal year, in which the city had a general fund of approximately $34.7 million.

Among the findings of the report, which can be read in its entirety here , is the city did not have comprehensive written policies and procedures for leave time. This resulted in 12 employees having negative leave time balances, two using leave time to which they were not entitled, and seven employees earned leave time that was not added to their balances.

In addition, the report noted 33 former employees had not been deactivated in the payroll system, which the report said increased the risk they could receive payments for leave time they were not entitled to.

The report recommended an improved system for keeping track of time accrual balances and removing former employees from the payroll system.

When asked what triggered the audit, Comptroller's Office spokesperson Kate Gurnett said that municipalities and other taxing entities are picked to be audited by a number of different factors.

"Our office is responsible for auditing more than 10,000 local governments, school districts and fire districts," Gurnett explained. "Generally, a number of factors are taken into account for determining when we will audit. In this case, the decision came via our internal risk assessment process.  We did not have a specific request from a resident (to do an audit)."

Gurnett said that the problems found in Peekskill were not uncommon and did not carry any fines or fees.

"The findings are not all that unusual, we have found similar issues elsewhere," Gurnett said. "There is no appeal [process] or penalty. Our audits are advisory in nature: we make recommendations, we do not impose penalties or even requirements."

Peekskill Comptroller Charles Emberger said he understands why the people who conducted the audit came up with the findings they did but said that to a degree, they didn't know what to look for. The city is using an outdated DOS-based KVS brand payroll software program that can be difficult to understand, Emberger said.

"Former employees appear to be active on some pages but not on others" Emberger said.

Also, he said employee accrued vacation time that was carried over from the previous year was not identified from the current year's accrued time.

"When someone looks at the books it may look like we overpaid," Emberger said. "Someone may have earned two weeks [that year] but it said they took three."

Emberger said he was not given an opportunity to give input on or clarify the findings of the report before it was published.

The city should be getting an updated Microsoft Windows-based version of the payroll software by the end of the year, and Emberger said that his staff has made changes to the way entries are made in the current system to make it easier to understand until that happens.

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