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ORDA Slammed In State Audit

WAMC/Pat Bradley

The New York State comptroller has issued an audit strongly critical of the Olympic Regional Development Authority’s financial practices.

The audit issued last week by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found that ORDA — the Olympic Regional Development Authority — had cash losses totaling $4.2 million dollars in the period from April 1, 2010 through March 31, 2013. Including depreciation, accounts receivable and post-employment benefits due employees, losses totaled $45 million dollars over that period.   The authority, which manages the Olympic facilities in Lake Placid plus the Gore Mountain and Belleayre Ski areas, has used a line of credit to cover basic operating costs including payroll.

Spokesman Mark Johnson says it’s apparent from the work of the auditors that ORDA is struggling to maintain fiscal balance.  “ORDA needs to explore new ways to save costs and commit to sound financial planning going forward. The authority is relying on loans and outside contributions to cover cash shortages and in recent years has used a line of credit to cover its basic operating costs. These are generally practices that are frowned upon and there needs to be some corrective action taken on the part of ORDA to rectify the situation.”

In its response to the audit, ORDA noted it is heavily dependent on the winter months for the bulk of its revenues, and state auditors did not take into account the seasonal nature of its activities. Mark Johnson notes ORDA must create a corrective action plan, and the comptroller’s office is suggesting options.  “We have suggested numerous ways to try and take additional actions to increase revenue. Especially with some of the sponsorship deals it has it could maximize value on those a bit better. It could work to cut costs to make sure that its bottom line is being met. It is up to the authority, though, to respond to us with ways that they’re going to try and fix the problems that we have found.”

ORDA also contends it is “...not the typical state authority in terms of lines of business and revenue streams.” It takes issue with the comptroller’s criticisms regarding handling of contracting, sponsorship, voucher and ticketing agreements. Olympic Regional Development Authority Spokesman John Lundin reports that ORDA officials have reviewed and are working with the Division of Budget regarding the comptroller’s audit.  “We’ve already put programs into place to address many of the recommendations in the audit. Our overall goal is to continue to generate additional revenue and capital for ORDA and for the venues. They include the addition of activities at our venues. We’re also looking at becoming more energy efficient. That relates more to our mountains, whether they be Whiteface Mountain or Gore or Belleayre.  So we’re working to generate the new revenue and to increase capital for ORDA and our venues.”

Responding to the comptroller’s audit, ORDA highlighted its cyclical revenues where 85 percent are earned during the four months of winter. Lundin notes that forces ORDA to generate funds a number of different ways.  “Our operating budget doesn’t solely rely on the state, but it relies on sponsorships and merchandise, and it relies on ticket sales as well. So we’re aware that we need to continue to generate revenue and capital, but at the same time making sure the guests enjoy their overall experience when they’re in Lake Placid and  on ORDA’s venues.”

Neither would comment as to how much ORDA’s management of Gore and Belleayre contributed to the fiscal difficulties, with the comptroller’s office noting it looked at current responsibilities.
A link to the audit and ORDA’s response is here.

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