The state Comptroller’s Office has determined in an audit that the Olympic Regional Development Authority should improve its financial practices.
This was the second audit strongly critical of the authority in 10 years. In a 2005 audit, then-Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi’s staff found ORDA improperly collected receipts, had weaknesses in its billing and procurement procedures and was not in compliance with governance practices for state authorities.
“ORDA’s continuing struggles to maintain fiscal balance show that the authority needs to explore new ways to save costs and commit to sound financial planning going forward,” Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said in a statement. “ORDA needs to develop a realistic and detailed multiyear financial plan to build its cash reserves and maintain operations for the economic benefit of local communities, as well as the tens of thousands of people who enjoy its attractions.”
ORDA operates Whiteface and Gore Mountain ski centers in the Adirondacks, the Olympic facilities in Lake Placid and Belleayre Ski Area in the Catskills. The bulk of its operating revenue is earned from November through March.
ORDA relies on loans and outside contributions to cover cash shortages. It uses a line of credit to cover operating costs, including payroll. Other state agencies sometimes pay ORDA’s bills, including $1.5 million of capital lease payments the authority has been unable to pay since 2008.
ORDA lost $4.2 million in cash accounting from April 1, 2010, through March 31, 2013. Its losses totaled $45 million over the period when depreciation, accounts receivable and post-employment benefits were included, according to the audit.
A capital improvement and major repair fund, required by state law, was empty.
Empire State Development Corp. awarded ORDA a $15.2 million working capital grant in 2006. The authority also received $5 million from the New York Works program for 2012-13. In total, ORDA received $38 million in state financial assistance during the time Gov. George E. Pataki was in office.
ORDA also has a heavy debt load, including $3.5 million owed in June 2013 on its outstanding line of credit.
Auditors determined that the authority could take steps to increase its income, including making sure it receives at least as much benefit from sponsors as it provides them in the way of advertising, condominium use and other agreements.
The audit also faulted ORDA for noncompetitive bids on 11 procurements totaling $427,000.
Mr. DiNapoli recommended ORDA establish a better method for estimating expenses and revenues in its multiyear financial plan, a top-to-bottom review of the authority’s organization and spending, awarding of contracts on a competitive basis and establishment of procedures for corporate sponsorships, among other suggestions.