State finishes performance audit

A councilwoman expressed concern about postponing budget-balancing.
GIRARD -- A meeting to discuss budget cuts was cut short when Mayor James Melfi announced that the state auditor's performance audit was complete.
The mayor told council members Saturday morning that an outline of state Auditor Jim Petro's report had been presented to him and other city administrators Friday on the condition that details of the plan not be discussed until the auditor's office releases the information.
Petro's office is expected to release the report to city council next Friday.
"I am pleased with the overall content of the performance audit," Melfi said. "I think they've done an excellent job."
Until council has had a chance to study that report, making changes to balance the city's budget for fiscal 2002 would be premature, he said.
Recommendations: The state auditor's report includes "a list of recommendations and options we didn't know existed," added Sam Zirafi, city treasurer. "I think it's a workable road map to get us where we need to be."
Girard has been operating under a state-imposed fiscal emergency since Aug. 8 and has laid off several city employees, including 14 part-time firefighters and three police officers, in an attempt to cut the city's operating costs.
If cuts aren't made, Girard could have an $868,000 deficit by the end of this year.
City administrators wanted to present the plan to council members during the Saturday work session, said Lou Adovasio, council president, but the auditor's office opposed the idea.
Melfi expects Petro to hold a press conference to present the results of the audit to the public before the end of January.
Extension: To allow time to consider the new information, the deadline for Girard to balance this year's budget could be extended, Zirafi noted.
When questioned by Kathleen O'Connell Sauline, D-2nd, chairwoman of council's finance committee, Melfi and Zirafi both acknowledged that the auditor's plan still requires the city to balance the budget for 2002.
O'Connell Sauline also voiced concern that if the deadline for balancing the budget is extended for even a short time, and the city continues to operate under a temporary budget council members know is not realistic, the level of debt the city incurs would continue to grow.
"I'm concerned with the citizens of Girard and being fiscally irresponsible with their tax dollars," she said.
Council will meet at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

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