Will Affordable Housing Turn Things Around for New York?

Will Affordable Housing Turn Things Around for New York?

Early this year, Governor Hochul introduced the New York Housing Compact, a strategy to build 800,000 new homes in the next decade to address the state’s affordable housing shortage. While it will take some time to see where everything lands, a big question remains: Will the Housing Compact address the myriad of challenges New York is facing?

Governor Hochul’s strategy involves setting targets for housing growth in every community; removing obstacles and incentivizing construction; and increasing the housing supply and support for renters and homeowners. Municipalities near MTA rail stations will be required to meet certain density targets for multifamily housing within a half-mile of stations. Localities will decide how to meet targets. A $250 million Infrastructure Fund and $20 million Planning Fund will be available. The new State Housing Approval Board or courts will be involved when proposed housing meet affordability criteria but not zoning.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, “Across New York, there is a shortage of rental homes affordable and available to extremely low income households (ELI), whose incomes are at or below the poverty guideline or 30% of their area median income (AMI). Many of these households are severely cost burdened, spending more than half of their income on housing. Severely cost burdened poor households are more likely than other renters to sacrifice other necessities like healthy food and healthcare to pay the rent, and to experience unstable housing situations like evictions.”

The affordable housing shortage has been linked to New York’s labor situation. As reported in Patch.com, the governor said, “ While over the last decade, New York has created 1.2 million jobs, only 400,000 new homes have been built. Land-use policies statewide are some of the most restrictive in the nation.”

Governing.com reports that the “plan would give the state power to bypass local zoning laws, but local officials want to maintain control of what is built in their communities.” (Weinter, Mark. “New York’s Affordable Housing Plan Bypasses Local Zoning.” February 2, 2023. Syracuse.com.)

Aside from housing, New York faces a population decrease, which is triggering issues in other areas like public school enrollment, funding, and more. As RBT CPAs reported in “What’s Happening with Enrollment in New York Public Schools?”, 2020-2021 showed historically low population growth in the U.S. that started to change in 2022 with a .4% increase attributable largely to more people moving to the U.S. from international locations than leaving and more births than deaths.

However, the Northeast population declined with more people moving out of the region than into it and New York State showing the biggest decline in the country. While New York had more births than deaths, it wasn’t enough to offset losses due to net domestic migration – 300,000 more people moved out of the state than into it, and it’s not just the economically disadvantaged who are leaving.

CNBC reported, “A survey conducted by SmartAsset tracked the movement of people under 35 earning an adjusted gross income of at least $100,000…It seems young professionals are most eager to leave New York. With a net outflow of 15,788, this state had the highest number of individuals leaving by a significant margin.”

As reported by SpectrumLocalNews.com, “Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt says the cost of living is driving people out of the state. ‘The single biggest threat to the state of New York is the outmigration of our human capital. It’s the loss of future generations of workers, of investors, of employers, taxpayers.’  While housing, no doubt contributes to that, there are a lot of other factors at play, too, like payroll taxes, Medicaid costs, proposed tuition hikes at state public schools, and more. (Reisman, Nick. “Affordability Becomes Watch Word in New York State Budget.” February 17, 2023. Spectrumlocalnews.com.)

Only time will tell whether affordable housing is the key to solving so many of New York’s challenges. To free you up to focus on the many strategies needed to build and maintain economically sound municipalities, RBT CPAs is here to help with your taxes, audits, accounting, advisory services, and more. We’re one of the leading accounting firms in the Hudson Valley, dedicated to helping our clients succeed. Learn more – give us a call.

Recent HUD Changes Set to Improve Certain Section 8 Housing Costs & More

Recent HUD Changes Set to Improve Certain Section 8 Housing Costs & More

Soon after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published Fair Value Rents for fiscal year 2023, the agency announced proposed changes to how Operating Cost Adjustment Factors (OCAFs) would be calculated, and updated Utility Allowance Factors (UAFs) for 2023. Both took effect February 11 and are designed to reflect the increased costs associated with providing housing thanks to historically high levels of inflation.

OCAFs are used to adjust or set project-based Section 8 rents under the Multifamily Assisting Housing Reform and Affordability Act of 1997 (MAHRAA). They are determined based on market-driven cost calculations for a defined period of time. OCAFs are applied to contract rent excluding any portion paid for debt service.

The factors included in the analysis used to set the OCAFs include electricity, employee benefits, employee wages, fuel oil, goods/supplies/equipment, insurance, natural gas, property taxes, and water/sewer/trash.

For 2023 only, the calculations for determining OCAFs changed in a number of ways. First, instead of comparing data for one-year, longer time periods were used for certain components to ensure the impact of inflation was captured. Second, data was pulled from later in the year (August versus May) to make sure it was more time relevant. Third, HUD switched from the Consumer Price Index to the Producer Price Index and other data to better reflect insurance rate spikes and the real-time cost of property insurance (LeadingAge New York. New Hud Calculation Method Doubles Annual Budget Increase).

The 2023 OCAF values apply to properties with contracts expiring on or after February 11.  They vary by state and are listed at the end of the Federal Register Notice. In 2024 and beyond, data used to determine OCAFs will continue to be pulled from August (instead of May), but year to year comparisons – rather than longer time periods – will once again be used.

As for UAFs, they are used when owners/agents of Multifamily Housing properties who receive a utility allowance seek an adjustment to that allowance, per Housing Notice 2015-04.  UAFs are updated once a year and available on the U.S. Office of Policy Development and Research HUD Portal.

2022 ended with more good news for propping up Section 8 Housing funds, thanks to the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, signed into law December 30, 2022. HousingFinance.com reports: “The section of the omnibus appropriations bill that funds HUD had a provision that will bring relief to the Section 8 portfolio, which had rents marked down to market (MTM) over the past 20 years. Section 236 of the general provisions amends MAHRAA to provide for MTM properties to receive a budget-based rent increase (BBRI) that includes new debt service, debt-service coverage, and reserve deposits.”

HousingFinance.com goes on to say: “An owner now has the opportunity to receive a budget-based rent increase to cover operating costs or to substantially rehabilitate and recapitalize the property for the next 20 years. Most owners likely will do a major rehab as these properties are more than 40 years old, and they typically had minimal work completed as part of the MTM restructuring.” Watch for additional guidance in the coming months. (Ruvolo, Anthony and Wallace, Stephen. New Life for Section 8 Market to Market Properties. January 11, 2023. HousingFinance.com.)

No doubt all of this is good news will also result in heightened Section 8 housing activities and work. While you’re focusing on making the most of financial enhancement opportunities, you can depend on RBT CPAs to stay focused on your tax, accounting, audit, and consulting needs. We’re one of the top accounting firms in the Hudson Valley, known for our professionalism, knowledge, ethics, community service, and exceptional client experience. To learn more, give us a call today.

What’s Happening with Enrollment in New York Public Schools?

What’s Happening with Enrollment in New York Public Schools?

Welcome to 2023 and the annual budget planning season. In addition to a myriad of factors that may play into budget discussions – from inflation and staff shortages to COVID, learning losses, mental health, and more – you may want to be prepared to speak about what’s going on with public school enrollment nationally, regionally, statewide, and in your district.

As reported in The New York Times, “School funding is tied directly to enrollment numbers in most states, and while federal pandemic aid has buffered school budgets so far, the Biden administration has made it clear that the relief is finite. Some districts are already bracing for budget shortfalls.”

It all starts with the biggest picture – U.S. population growth. On December 22, the U.S. Census Bureau provided an update.  After 2020-2021 showed historically low population growth in the U.S., 2022 started to show a rebound with .4% population growth due largely to international immigration (more people moving to the U.S. than leaving) and natural causes (more births than deaths).

However, the Northeast region of the country experienced a decline, largely due to negative net domestic migration (more people moving out of the region than into it). New York state showed the biggest decline in the country. While New York was one of 26 states with the highest natural increase (about 35,000 more births than deaths), it wasn’t enough to offset the huge losses due to net domestic migration (almost 300,000 more people moving out of the state than into it).

New York’s declining population is impacting the state’s public school enrollment. As reported by the Office of the New York State Comptroller, “Statewide, public school enrollment fell by a full 3 percent in the 2020-21 school year and a further 2 percent in the 2021-22 school year. This is significant, as student enrollment is a key factor in determining how much education aid districts receive from the State.”

The New York Empire Center reinforces these findings and reports a decline of over 5% since 2020 (it also has maps where you can see 2021 to 2022 enrollment numbers and percent change by district, county, and more).

New York is not alone. According to Return2LearnTracker.net, between Spring of 2020 and 2022, U.S. public school enrollment shrunk by nearly 1.3 million students. Five states saw net gains from 2020 to 2022, while 19 experienced a 3% decline or more. In terms of demographics, it appears the youngest students – a.k.a. kindergarten – experienced the largest decrease. (Remember, however, these youngsters were also among the last approved to receive COVID vaccines.)

No doubt, COVID impacted these numbers and resulted in more students being homeschooled, as well as increases in private and parochial school enrollments. (That doesn’t even get into the number of students who relocated to other parts of the country thanks to new flexibilities afforded to families via the option to work remotely.) However, New York’s declining public school enrollment started long before COVID.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, from 2006 to 2011, New York State enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools dropped by 3.7% and the downward slide continued between 2011 and 2023 with another decrease of 1.9%.

What about the future? As reported by districtadministration.com, “Enrollment is projected to fall further, by about 4%, through 2030 as the school-aged population is expected to keep shrinking. Whereas half of U.S. states actually saw increases from 2009 to 2020, the future declines will be far more widespread, the analysis found. Enrollment in pre-K through grade 8 is projected to decrease by 5% with high school enrollment falling by 2%.” It’s projected New York will be the 10th state for largest declines at 8%. (Learn more in the National Center for Education Statistics 2022 Report on the Condition of Education.)

However, not all New York public school districts are in the same situation. As reported by SiLive.com, “The state Board of Regents outlined its budget and legislative priorities, which include proposals like universal pre-K, universal access to Career and Technical Education (CTE), expanding opportunities for services and programs, supporting districts with rapid enrollment growth, and expanding access to school meals.”

If enrollment change is a growing concern in your district, you may want to consider conducting a  demographic study and forecast to help inform your budget process and community stakeholders.  While that’s outside RBT CPAs’ wheelhouse, our experts are available to help your district with accounting, taxes, audits, and more. To learn what RBT CPAs – a leading accounting firm in the Hudson Valley for over 50 years – can do for you, give us a call.

The Clock Is Ticking on Obligating State & Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF)

The Clock Is Ticking on Obligating State & Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF)

It’s hard to believe we’re just a about three months shy of the second anniversary of the American Rescue Plan Act, otherwise known as ARPA. In two more years, or on December 31, 2024, State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds or SLFRF – a part of ARPA – must be obligated. Then, two years later – by December 31, 2026 – SLFRF must be fully spent. Are you on track to meet these deadlines?

A report entitled, A Comparison of Fiscal Recovery Funds Utilization, notes: “The eligible uses of SLFRF  are intentionally broad to provide state and local governments with substantial flexibility to respond to pandemic impacts in their community, including general operating support to offset revenue losses while also encouraging them to make investments that support long-term growth, opportunity, and equity.”

As noted by the Treasury Department, “Recipients may use SLFRF funds to:

  • Replace lost public sector revenue, using this funding to provide government services up to the amount of revenue lost due to the pandemic
  • Respond to the far-reaching public health and negative economic impacts of the pandemic, by supporting the health of communities, and helping households, small businesses, impacted industries, nonprofits, and the public sector recover from economic impacts
  • Provide premium pay for essential workers, offering additional support to those who have and will bear the greatest health risks because of their service in critical sectors
  • Invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, making necessary investments to improve access to clean drinking water, to support vital wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, and to expand affordable access to broadband internet.”

You can find more details about categories and definitions on the National Conference of State Legislatures website. For information on how states are using funds, visit the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. For information on allocations for cities and counties or how they are using funds, click here.

While you’re finalizing plans to ensure funds are obligated by the deadline, be sure to update your calendar with these quarterly Project and Expenditure Report deadlines: January 31, 2023 (for the period October 1 – December 31, 2022); April 30, 2023 (for January 1 – March 31); July 31, 2023 (for April 1 through June 30); and October 31, 2023 (for July 1 – September 30).

If you’re only required to submit an annual project and expenditure report, the next deadline is April 30, 2023. This covers the period from April 1, 2022 through March 31, 2023. An annual report is required from Tribal governments allocated less than $30 million; metropolitan cities and counties with less than 250,000 residents and less than $10 million in funding; and Non-Entitlement Units (NEUs) with less than $10 million in funding.

For additional information, refer to these resources:

You can find additional resources on our website (go to the right of the screen and click “ARPA Downloads.”)

If you need any accounting, tax, or audit assistance with your SLFRF or other funds, please give RBT CPAs a call. We’re a leader in the Hudson Valley and beyond, known for our professionalism and integrity. We believe we succeed when we help you succeed. Contact us today.

Is That Fundraiser Legal?

Is That Fundraiser Legal?

What was once a rite of passage and learning experience for children moving through elementary, middle, and high school has transformed into highly regulated, adult-driven activities for extra-curricular program funding.

I remember the days of selling boxes of candy bars for our school fundraisers and proudly handing in my envelop full of sales each year. I had done my part all while trying to earn the biggest prizes available based on sales. I can remember how it sparked a sense of competition and drive that stayed with me, well, until today.

Fast forward to today’s school fundraising environment, and you find parent committees and meetings, policy handbooks, approval protocols, laws, and rarely a student in sight.  Instead of student government brainstorming ideas to help fund a special class trip or outing, booster clubs, parent associations and others have taken over raising what amounts to some big money for some school districts and clubs. This is accompanied by a variety of laws and accounting requirements.

Here are a few fundraising rules and laws district and school leadership should be aware of and, when appropriate, communicate to broader parent and community audiences via policies, handbooks, etc.:

  • Regents Rule 19.6 According to the rule, direct solicitation of charitable donations (goods or funds) from children in public schools on school property during regular school hours is not permitted. There are some exceptions – for example, the sale of tickets to an upcoming school event is permitted, as is signing up students to participate in a fundraiser. Collection boxes for money, food or donations are also permitted. (For details, visit the New York State Education Department Question & Answers on Solicitation of Charitable Donations from New York School Children.)
  • Title IX Services, opportunities, and benefits in a school district’s programs must be provided equally regardless of the source of the benefit. This includes donations, fundraising, and organizations that raise funds on behalf of a school district.
  • New York State Gaming Commission An organization – like a booster club – may need a permit to hold a raffle depending on the county it resides within and local rules. There are limits on raffle values and content (i.e., no alcohol allowed). Tickets can only be purchased with cash, check, or credit card – no online payment methods can be used. There’s more – a lot more – find details starting on page 562 of the New York Gaming Commission Guidelines.

Remember, RBT CPAs is an accounting firm – we are not attorneys and the information presented herein should not be construed as advice (impressive use of “herein,” right?). You should consult legal counsel for answers to questions, advice, and direction regarding fundraising. That said, we at RBT CPAs are very smart about accounting, tax, and audits. Our firm has been doing it for over 50 years and we’ve earned a reputation for professional, ethical, and dependable service. Should your school district or one of its fundraising bodies need financial advice or support, we are available to help. Just give us a call and we can explore how we can be remarkably better together.

Transitioning to the New York State Pension Plan Reporting Requirements by Year End

Transitioning to the New York State Pension Plan Reporting Requirements by Year End

After December 31 of this year, New York State & Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) legacy reporting will be phased out and replaced by Retirement Online for enhanced reporting. Over 900 employers have already made the switch. Since initial discussions about the change started over four years ago, we figured it’s a good time to review everything and remind you of the many resources available to help ensure a smooth transition for your office and your employees.

As noted on the Office of New York State Comptroller, Thomas P Dinapoli’s website, “When it comes to using Retirement Online, state agencies will primarily use it to enroll optional employees in the Retirement System. However, Retirement Online offers you much more than just easy enrollment.”

Retirement Online is faster and easier than the legacy system. Municipality users are commenting on how simple it is to use, which is especially valuable for smaller offices where staff wear many hats.

With the new system, government employers can easily enroll new members; generate reports; get instantaneous access to information about days worked, earnings, and job information; process and change deductions accurately and in a timely manner, and receive timely notifications about potential issues.

In addition, Retirement Online allows users to view new hire information and contribution rates, as well as historical reporting data and financial transactions; update information about your organization; manage and assign security access; request events; and submit the Statement of Accrued Payments and Leave Credits form for retiring employees.

There are numerous resources available to support the transition:

While you’re focusing on making the transition, remember, RBT CPAs is here to focus on all of your accounting, tax, and auditing needs. We’ve been supporting municipal clients in the Hudson Valley and beyond for over 75 years, and we’re committed to upholding the highest levels of professional, ethical service. Give us a call today.

Consider Making Silent Alarms Part of Your School Safety Plan – It’s the Law

Consider Making Silent Alarms Part of Your School Safety Plan – It’s the Law

In June, Governor Kathy Hochul signed Alyssa’s Law, which requires schools in New York to consider the use of silent panic alarm systems as part of their school safety plan reviews/updates.

Named after 14-year-old Alyssa Lhadeff, who was killed in a mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the law advocates for systems that directly alert law enforcement of an active shooter situation requiring immediate response. That way, there’s no delay and the minutes saved could also save lives. Ultimately, it is designed to make New York schools safer.

New York schools join those in Florida, New Jersey, and Kansas, which have similar laws. While not a mandate, New York schools should consider the alarm’s usefulness and inclusion in building safety plans.

A panic/silent alarm system can cost a few thousand dollars and can be implemented via a smartphone app (there are also hard-wired and lanyard options). The system bypasses 911 and connects directly with law enforcement. In addition to an active shooter situation, it can be used for medical and fire emergencies, and also alert school staff in addition to first responders.

As reported on Lohud.com, the law “allows state reimbursement for districts that add the systems,” as well as related technology updates. A news report from the Finger Lakes region of New York indicates schools are working with their insurance carriers to learn about the silent alarm options available to them and the best prices. In Olean city schools, a silent alarm system was funded with a grant.

A month before Alyssa’s Law was signed, Hochul strengthened New York’s Red Flag Law. As reported via RochesterFirst, “On May 18, 2022, Governor Hochul signed an Executive Order to require State Police to file for an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) whenever they have probable cause to believe that an individual is a threat to themselves or others.” Training was on the radar for educators and mental health professionals.

So, if reviewing or updating your school safety plan is on the agenda in the weeks or months ahead, be sure to become acquainted with Alyssa’s law, the Red Flag Law, and training and other resources that may be available to you and your staff. To learn more, visit New York State Schools Against Violence in Education (SAVE) or the New York Center for School Safety.

As always, it’s always a good idea to check with your legal counsel to ensure compliance. While you’re focused on boosting your school’s safety, please know you can count on RBT CPAs to support your school’s/district’s accounting, audit, and tax needs. We’ve been serving businesses, municipalities, and school districts in the Hudson Valley and beyond for over 50 years and have gained a reputation for our professional and ethical practices and services. Give us a call to see what we can do for you today.

Better Together: Local, State & Federal Resources Team Up to Fight Cyber Terrorism

Better Together: Local, State & Federal Resources Team Up to Fight Cyber Terrorism

U.S. and state leaders recognized municipalities do not have the resources or manpower to stop the onslaught of cyberattacks at a local level. This year, a new strategy has emerged in the war on cyber terrorism, fostering a shared services approach to winning on this invisible battlefield on national, state, and local levels. As a result, New York municipalities have access to more support, training, and tools than ever to protect sensitive data and critical infrastructure.

In June, the State and Local Government Security Act was signed into law, formalizing the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) relationship and roles in increasing cybersecurity defenses and resiliency.

Under the law, CISA is required to help address cyber incidents; share cyber threat indicators, defensive measures, and risks; communicate incidents; share best practices, standards, and policies; help build system resiliency; promote education and awareness; and more. MS-ISAC (made up of a coalition of more than 2,500 organizations including states and territories) must work with CISA to improve cybersecurity for all, using a 24/7 watch and warning center and a Computer Emergency Response Team.

In July, NY Governor Kathy Hochul announced the start of the state’s $30 million shared services program to help counties protect government systems against ransomware and other attacks. This follows the introduction of the state’s Joint Security Operation Center which takes a centralized approach to managing cybersecurity risk for government assets throughout the state. Counties can opt-in at no cost.

What’s more, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 includes $1 billion in grants to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments over four years. Under the law, 80% of money received by states via grants must go to local governments.  Just a few days ago (September 16 to be exact), the Department of Homeland Security launched the State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program to begin distributing funds. (Click here for FAQs for how local governments can access the grants.)

To bolster efforts to stand up to cyber attacks at the local level, early this year, the New York State Association of Counties issued a Cybersecurity Primer for Local Leaders. The Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress hosted a series of webinars (with recordings available) focusing on boosting cybersecurity in the region.

Also, the New York State Office of Information Technology developed a webpage devoted to cybersecurity resources for local municipalities’ elected officials, administrative officials, and business managers. Among the many resources posted is a Local IT Governance Management Guide, as well as guides for incidence reports, risk management, getting started with cyber security, secure credit card payments, firewalls, Internet and acceptable use policies, disposal of electronic media, and backing up essential information. In addition, there are awareness resources including webinar recordings, newsletters, and toolkits; training resources; and a toolkit with assessment tools, user guides, and more.

With so many divisive factors in society today, it’s refreshing to see that when called upon Americans can be bigger than what divides us by uniting at every level of government to stand up against security threats in cyberspace. No doubt, it’s a big job on a battlefield with no borders and no visible enemies.

To free you up to focus on what you do best – including protecting your community’s critical infrastructure and residents’ private data, we want to remind you that RBT CPAs is here to take on everything accounting, tax, and audit-related. We’ve been serving municipalities in the Hudson Valley and beyond for over 50 years, and we’re always ready to do our part with the highest standards of professionalism and ethics. Contact RBT CPAs today.

Don’t Get FOILed by FOIL Requests: Be Prepared to Move Fast

Don’t Get FOILed by FOIL Requests: Be Prepared to Move Fast

Updates to New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) on March 22 (and retroactive to December 29, 2021) are designed to make it easier to access public records by speeding up responses to requests for information and providing more detailed justifications for denials. Are your municipal agencies and public authorities ready to respond?

New York state leadership is taking responsibility for transparency seriously, as seen by not one but two FOIL amendments within the last year – one at the end of 2021 and another in March of 2022. FOIL is intended to provide the public – whether it’s a taxpayer, a reporter, a defense attorney, or someone else – with access to public records from government agencies.

As a result of amendments, ABC 50 Now (via InformNNY.com) reported FOIL requests now go directly to the agency managing the information (rather than starting with an Executive Chamber review) and each agency must post commonly requested information online to eliminate the need for a FOIL request.

Section 86 defines agency as “any state or municipal department, board, bureau, division, commission, committee, public authority, public corporation, council, office or other governmental entity performing a governmental or proprietary function for the state or any one or more municipalities thereof, except the judiciary or the state legislature.”

FOIL is overseen by The Committee on Open Government. Its Model Rules for Agencies, Section 5 Requests for public access to records details how and when an agency should respond to a FOIL request. Some noteworthy items:

  • A request can be verbal if records are readily available on the internet.
  • Within five days of receipt of a request, a response must be provided. This includes:
    – Asking for more details;
    – Granting or denying the request;
    – Acknowledging receipt of the request and providing an approximate date for granting or denying the request (which must be within 20 business days from the acknowledgement unless a written explanation is provided about why there is a delay and when the request will be fulfilled); or
    – If after acknowledging the request, disclosure can’t be met by the date noted, a written explanation for the delay and the date the request will be granted must be provided.
  • Several factors are used to determine a reasonable time to fulfill a request, including how big the request is, how easy it is to get the records, request complexity, the number of requests received by an agency, and more.
  • Failing to comply with time limits is construed to be a denial that can be appealed. This includes:
    – Failing to provide access to requested records;
    – Failing to acknowledge in writing receipt of request or denial within five business days;
    – Failing to provide an approximate date for fulfilling the request in whole or in part;
    – Approximating a date for fulfilling the request that is unreasonable;
    – Failing to respond within a reasonable time after the approximate date provided or within 20 days of acknowledging receipt of a request;
    – Granting a request within 20 business days of acknowledging receipt of the request, but failing to do so and failing to explain why in writing and when the request will be granted in whole or in part;
    – Failing to grant a request and provide a written explanation why and when it will be granted in whole or in part; or
    – Responding to a request stating more than 20 business days is needed and stating when the request will be fulfilled but that date is unreasonable based on the request.

Other changes related to the updated law include the elimination of a judicial hearing for a public records request as long as an investigating agency confirms release of information could hurt investigations or lives (Bliss, 2022, CriminalLegalNews.org). What’s more, failing to fulfill a request and having a viable reason for doing so could result in having to pay a requestor’s attorney’s fees should the matter be litigated.

While FOIL has been around since the 1970s, renewed focus on transparency and trust in government as a New York state priority likely means the recent law changes are a beginning rather than an end, and more is likely to come in terms of enforcement and precedence. New York’s Committee on Open Government website has more information to help you learn about and navigate FOIL (including training materials). It’s worth a visit every once and a while to ensure compliance.

While this article reviews key highlights, we need to say and can’t emphasize enough that this is a legal matter. If your agency is subject to FOIL, you should seek legal counsel to ensure compliance. In the meantime, it is important to recognize that a broad spectrum of subjects – including finance-related ones – are subject to FOIL. That makes using a respected, professional accountant with a track record for excellence even more important – why not give RBT CPAs a call to see what we can do for you?

New Project & Expenditure (P&E) Report Requirements for Recovery Funds Start July 31

New Project & Expenditure (P&E) Report Requirements for Recovery Funds Start July 31

With the second quarter ending, you may want to get acquainted with updated guidance the U.S. Treasury provided for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) Project and Expenditure (P&E) Reports. The next one is due July 31 and there are several new requirements.

On June 17th, updates were issued by the U.S. Treasury for State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Compliance and Reporting Guidance.  Quarterly P&E reports are due from States and U.S. territories; tribal governments allocated more than $30 million in SLFRF funding; metropolitan cities and counties with more than 250,000 residents; metropolitan cities and counties with less than 250,000 residents allocated more than $10 million in SLFRF funds; and Non-Entitlement Units (NEUs) allocated more than $10 million in SLFRF funding.

The next report is due July 31 for the quarter ending June 30. If your municipality is required to submit a P&E, get acquainted with the updated reporting guidelines. Changes for quarterly and annual reports, as reported by the National Association of Counties, include:

  • Reveal the type of capital expenditure per enumerated uses (found on pages 27 and 28 of the S. Treasury Compliance and Reporting Guidance, Section 2, Capital Expenditures).
  • Provide written justification for capital expenditures in projects expected to total $10 million or more for enumerated uses or $1 million or more for an “other” use. (Exception: This does not apply to Tribal governments.)
  • Provide labor reporting (outlined on pages 30 and 31 of the S. Treasury Compliance and Reporting Guidance) for projects with total expected capital expenditures of over $10 million.
  • Provide additional information for Broadband projects (outlined on pages 32 and 33 of the S. Treasury Compliance and Reporting Guidance).
  • Provide additional data for projects in expenditure categories (outlined on page 33 of the S. Treasury Compliance and Reporting Guidance). This applies to States, U.S. territories, and metropolitan cities and counties with more than 250,000 residents.
  • New Recovery Plan Template required to be published annually on the recipient’s website and provided to.

For additional resources, including guides and webinars, visit the U.S. Department of the Treasury website.

On a different note, as reported by the New York Government Finance Officer’s Association (NYGFOA), SAM.gov – the Federal System of Award Management – is having some issues. If you’re experiencing delays or having issues completing reauthorization or registration, in order to get your Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) needed to apply for Federal funding opportunities, there are a number of resources that can help: UEI FAQ document published by the General Services Administration (GSA); SAM.gov Help webpage; and the GSA Federal Service Help Desk.

You probably have a lot more to do navigating all of these new requirements and processes. RBT CPAs can help. We’re available to partner with you on all of audit, tax, and accounting needs, so you have peace of mind these responsibilities are covered by one of the largest firms in the Hudson Valley, a top 100 firm in New York and a top 250 firm nationwide. That way, you’re freed up to focus on new and growing responsibilities to help plan for, secure, and track valuable funds for your community’s future.