JOHNSTOWN — Johnstown Mayor Amy Praught yearns to see a two-year financial weight on her administration soon lifted.
The first-term Republican official expects to have annual financial statements (AUDs) for 2020 and 2021, respectively, submitted to the state within the next two weeks and next three months. If approved, Johnstown will be reauthorized to bond for city projects for the first time in more than a year.
“I can assure you the day they tell me they’ve accepted my AUDs, we will be bonding,” Praught said about state approval. “We need bonding desperately.”
In 2021, the state comptroller’s office reported that former Johnstown Treasurer Michael Gifford for several years had failed to adequately maintain financial records and file AUDs — circumstances which ultimately put a pause on the city’s ability to borrow money.
Gifford resigned in September of 2021, pushing then-treasurer candidate Thomas Herr to fill the role in an interim capacity. The now-elected treasurer was locked out of the city’s accounting software for months, a move which hampered the city from making early headway on the issue, Praught said.
“Just imagine that you have a checkbook and you never enter in any of your checks and then at the year, [OSC] is like, ‘What was your ongoing balance on a daily basis?'” said Praught, who was elected the same year to fill the role of outgoing Mayor Vernon Jackson.
AUDs from 2018 and 2019 were completed during the first year of Praught’s administration. The 2020 fiscal report is “99.9%” finished and work on the 2021 report is already underway, according to the mayor.
Each document has been produced in coordination with contractual accounting firm PKF O’Connor Davies.
“They’ve got to the point where they’ve said, ‘I think we have everything and we’re ready to go, but we just have to review it and go over it before we submit it to the bond attorneys,” Praught said about the 2020 report. “We feel really confident.”
Praught plans on using bonds for paving projects, new roofing, heavy equipment and water infrastructure upgrades. Collectively, the city could bond between $11 to $12 million.
In the last budget cycle, Praught has cautiously relied on tapping general funds and COVID-19 relief (ARPA) funds in order to move the various purchases, including emergency vehicles and maintenance equipment.
“Now it’s got to the point where we’ve dwindled that money down and are in need of bonding for these other projects,” Praught said.
Johnstown is currently running on an $18,224,542 spending plan, which includes more than $17.6 million in revenue and $600,000 in fund balance expenditures. This is the last year Johnstown can budget ARPA funds per federal grant requirements.
City officials have already started planning for the 2024 budget, which must be passed by the Common Council come Dec. 1. If the AUDs are completed by that time, changes will alter Johnstown’s prospective spending plan, the mayor said.
Herr didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected] Follow him on Facebook at Tyler A. McNeil, Daily Gazette or Twitter @TylerAMcNeil.