Independent audit shows Cobleskill's finances much improved


By Jim Poole

In a tangled mess just a couple of years ago, the Village of Cobleskill’s finances appear to be in pretty good shape.
That’s according to an independent audit of 2018 village finances released last week.
Done by the Oneonta firm of Mostert, Manzanero and Scott, the audit found that many of the serious financial mistakes in 2016 and 2017 have been corrected.
The audit does not, however, absolve Cobleskill of those 2016 mistakes, now being investigated by the state Attorney General’s Office and possibly resulting in charges.
But the corrections noted in the independent audit show Cobleskill is headed in the right direction.
Faced with a long list of inaccurate recordkeeping leading to financial failure, village board members hired CPA Lyn Lawyer to help straighten out the mess.
Board members then turned to Sheila Wilday, hiring her as clerk-treasurer in April 2018. Former clerk-treasurer Samantha Moyster was not rehired.
Ms. Wilday had been the village’s clerk or clerk-treasurer for 27 years, so she knew the job––and what needed to be done.
Ms. Wilday at first didn’t want to return, but a longtime friend, Katherine Sullivan, convinced her to do so.
And Mayor Linda Holmes was glad someone who knew the job was back in place.
“We felt we needed someone who knew and had worked with municipal accounting,” Mayor Holmes said.
There was a hitch, though.
“All the village software was new, so there was a learning curve to do what we had to do,” Ms. Wilday said.
Straightening out the books for 2016 and 2017 came on top of her daily work as clerk-treasurer, so Ms. Wilday put in long hours.
“I started early and stayed late,” she said. “Sometimes it felt like I lived here.”
And last week’s audit indicated those hours paid off. For each “weakness and deficiency,” such as improper bank reconciliations, failure of accounting system, incorrect balance sheet accounts, cash transfers improperly recorded and overspending budget lines, the auditors concluded with one statement:
“This condition has been corrected.”
One example Ms. Wilday pointed to was a $2.1 million error between March 2018 and March 2019.
In 2018, the Federal Emergency Management Agency owed money to the village, and the water and sewer bills hadn’t been sent to property owners for six months, Ms. Wilday said, “and nobody was doing anything about it.”
Now that $2.1 million is back on the village books.
Ms. Wilday praised Ms. Lawyer for starting the correction process, adding the CPA could––and should––fill in if Ms. Wilday is on vacation.
For her part, Mayor Holmes is relieved.
“We’re pleased with what the audit showed,” she said. “There are still some areas to work on, but overall, we’re very pleased.”