AKRON, N.Y. - An audit completed by the New York State Comptroller's Office claims the Village of Akron underbilled water and sewer customers by as much as $85,000, although village leaders argue the findings are a result of erroneous meter readings and have already been mostly corrected.
According to the audit, the village has failed to monitor a discrepancy between the amount of water produced and the amount of water the village billed for, resulting in "unaccounted-for" water. State auditors argue the "unaccounted-for water has had a significant financial impact for the Village."
-- "The Village is experiencing financial difficulties because of systemic and historical practices of not properly monitoring and accounting for water production and then borrowing from other funds to address water revenue shortfalls."
-- "Village officials also did not properly monitor user charges or account for water production. As a result, the Village did not bill customers accurately, resulting in a revenue loss during our audit period of $85,000." That $85,000 includes the village billing a neighboring town incorrectly and underbilling a mobile home park.
-- "The Village has had to borrow from other funds to pay operating expenses.... It is imperative that Village officials address these issues as the Village and its residents cannot afford the costly errors of underbilled customers or the production of significant amounts of water that is unaccounted-for and remains unbilled."
Village Mayor Carl Patterson said many of the state's recommendations have already been followed, including a new system to create water productivity reports in order to monitor the system.
Patterson stressed that there's no missing money of any kind-- instead, he said the meter errors are throwing the whole system off.
"There's no missed billing opportunity there-- it appears there is, but we think that the meter, the way it was reading the gallons, was incorrect," Patterson said. "And as such we have tested those meters and changed those meters, and we recognized that there is a big difference there."
Village Trustee E. Peter Forrestel also argued the state's assertion that the village lost revenue.
"It's not about lost revenue, because it's not revenue that we should have gotten," Forrestel said. "Because they based that lost revenue projection... that was based on the metering between the plant and the total amount billed. But we believe there's an issue with the incorrect readings of the meter."
In its written response to state auditors, the village mentioned that it had implemented new procedures to protect against discrepancies. The village was already negotiating with that neighboring town before the completion of the audit, and it also began billing the mobile home park from the "master" meter in mid-March. The village's new meter installation system is also 90 percent finished, according to the response letter sent to the State Comptroller's Office.
Patterson said the village is still investigating how exactly how the metering errors occurred.
"Our operators are still questioning the validity of the gallons that were metered," Patterson said. "And I keep going back to that because that's really all we have right now -- is the meter, whether it was accurate or not."