Wednesday, March 27, 2013

ORDA’s ‘Ongoing Fiscal Challenges’ Prompt Review

ORDAState Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli says his office will launch a full financial audit of the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) after a report by his office found that financial issues persist at a time when its operations have been expanded to include the Catskills-based Belleayre Mountain Ski Center.

“ORDA’s venues have long been an essential part of the North Country economy, which heightens the need to ensure its stability and accountability to the public,” DiNapoli said in a statement issued to the press. “We will examine selected financial management practices related to payroll, procurement and other areas.”

DiNapoli’s “By the Numbers” ORDA report, released today, details operational losses and a reliance on a line of credit from a private bank, among other sources, to meet its spending needs.

ORDA’s primary revenue source is income from fees for skiing, skating and other activities. The authority was created in 1981 to operate Olympic venues in and around Lake Placid and now runs ski centers at Whiteface Mountain, Gore Mountain and Belleayre, as well as an Olympic ski jump and sports complex. It also hosts national and international sporting events. Belleayre operations were transferred from the Department of Environmental Conservation to ORDA last year.

Unlike most state public authorities, ORDA also receives financial support from the state, the town of North Elba, and other state authorities: the Empire State Development Corporation and the New York Power Authority.

In the last reported fiscal year, ORDA spent $40.4 million and took in $39.7 million in revenues, which included the state and local financial contributions. The authority’s financial statements identified an operating loss of $16.9 million in 2012. ORDA has maintained up to a $7 million private line of credit which it calls on to fill periodic funding shortfalls in operating revenues, and to fund projects while it awaits payment of ESDC grant funding.

As of fiscal year end March 31, 2012, ORDA reported 304 active procurement contracts totaling nearly $27.5 million, of which 167, valued at nearly $7 million, were either not competitively bid or were non-contract procurements.

Since the creation of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 1921, New York has added more than 1,000 state and local public authorities. These entities collectively employ more than 150,000 people, spend more than $50 billion annually, and have nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars in debt outstanding. DiNapoli has stated that New York’s continued reliance on public authorities heightens the need for improved accountability and transparency.

The report is based on self-reported data by public authorities to the Office of the State Comptroller. The data, which is not independently verified by the Comptroller, is for the most recently reported fiscal year.

A copy of the “By the Numbers” report is available online.


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One Response

  1. John P. says:

    ORDA is a vestigal remnant of a long gone Olympic event, and taxpayers should not be on the hook for an ever expanding ghost empire.