Frequently Asked Questions

 

Authority Website

 

If a public authority does not have a web page, is it required to develop and maintain such a site? What information is required to be made available to the public on their website?

 

Public Authorities Law, Sections 2800(1)(b) and 2800(2)(b) requires every authority to make certain information available online on their official website, or shared website.  If the public authority does not have a website, it should make arrangements to post the required reports on the website of the government for whose benefit the authority was established, or to an affiliated entity, to assure accessibility by the Authorities Budget Office and the public.  Each authority must post its mission, current activities, most recent annual financial reports, current year budget, and most recent independent audit report.  More detailed information regarding what information must be made available on Authorities’ websites can be found on the ABO website under “Policy Guidance”.

 

 

Auditor Rotation

 

Must a public authority rotate audit firms every five years?

 

No.  A public authority may retain an independent audit firm for more than five years, but the firm must change the lead partner on the audit or the partner responsible for reviewing the audit at least once every five years. 

 

Board Member Training

 

What constitutes "participate in State approved training"?

 

Board members are required to participate in State approved training on their role and responsibilities within one year of appointment to a public authority board.  Board members now have the ability to access on-line training via a webinar conducted by the ABO. Registration is available on the ABO web site.

 

If a board member designates a representative to attend board meetings in his/her place, must the representative participate in State approved training or should the board member participate?

 

A designee may only be appointed by the board member if they are allowed by law to do so. The board member does not relinquish his or her responsibility, obligations or power as a board member through the appointment of a designee.  Board Members that are authorized by law to appoint a designee and do so must attend training to understand the fiduciary responsibilities their designee is undertaking.  The designees must also attend training since they have the same responsibilities as the board member that appointed them.

 

Board Member Independence

 

The law states that a majority of a public authority board must be comprised of independent members.  What does this mean and how is independence determined?

 

The majority of the board, exclusive of ex officio members, must meet the independence requirements of Section 2825(2) of Public Authorities Law.  This means that if a public authority has a nine member board, with four ex officio members, three of the remaining five appointees to the board must be independent.  Section 2825(2) defines an independent member as one who: has not been employed by the public authority or an affiliate in an executive capacity over the past two years; has not been employed by an entity that received more than $15,000 from the public authority or received any other form of financial assistance of more than $15,000; is not a relative of an executive of the public authority or affiliate; and has not been a lobbyist over the past two years. 

 

Can an elected or appointed official serve on a public authority board, and is this official considered to be an independent member?

 

While it is not a recommended practice, the appointment of a government employee is not prohibited under the statute and such individual’s position as a government employee would not inherently affect their independence.

 

 

Board Structure

 

How should a public authority constitute its Audit and Governance Committees?

 

In accordance with statute (Sections 2824(4) and 2824(7) of PAL), the Audit and Governance Committees are to be comprised of no less than three board members who meet the independence requirement.  In the event that a board has less than three independent members, the board can appoint non-independent members to the committees, but the independent members must constitute the majority of the committee.  It is permissible to appoint a private citizen (non-board member) to one of these committees to meet the minimum requirements, provided that these non-board members are independent and do not constitute the majority of the committee.  For additional information and a Model Audit Committee Charter and Governance Committee Charter you may refer to the Authorities Budget Office website under “Recommended Practices”: 

 

Is every authority required to have a Finance Committee?

 

Finance committees are required for those authorities that issue debt.  The structure of the finance committee is the same as listed above for audit and governance committees.  It is the responsibility of the finance committee to review proposals for the issuance of debt by the authority and make recommendations to the full board.

 

Can the CEO hold the Chairman position of an Authority’s Board?

 

Unless it is stipulated in an authority’s enabling statute, this is permissible, but statute dictates that no chair who is also the CEO can participate in determining the level of compensation or reimbursement, or time and attendance rules for the position of CEO.  (Section 2824(3) of PAL)

 

  

Certification of Financial Reports

 

Public Authorities Law, Section 2800 (3)) requires financial reports to be certified in writing by the CEO and CFO?  What does this mean?

 

It is the chief executive officer and the chief financial officer, not board members, who are responsible for the preparation of the authority’s financial statements.  With the submission of these reports in PARIS, the CEO and the CFO are stipulating that, to their knowledge, the financial statements are correct, accurate and complete.  Reports should not be certified without the Board reviewing and accepting the information as accurate.  Submittal screens in PARIS state “This information has been presented to and accepted by the authority’s Board.” 

 

What is the Board’s Role in Certifying Financial Reports?

It is the responsibility of board members to review, question, understand and approve the financial statements and to be assured that the information is not misleading.  The CEO or CFO should provide all board members with a copy of the information entered into PARIS for Board review and approval, prior to PARIS certification. 

 

What if the Authority does not have a CEO or CFO?

 

The law does not require these positions be created if the functions are currently being performed by staff with other titles. The ABO interprets the law to mean that these references are to management activities normally associated with those positions, rather than to the specific positions.  As such, it could be appropriate within the current organizational structure of an authority to have the job responsibilities of an executive director or chief financial officer performed by staff with a title other than that of CEO or CFO, or if those responsibilities were vested in the same individual, provided that appropriate internal controls and other safeguards were in place.

 

 

Code of Ethics

 

What provisions must be included in this Code to satisfy compliance with the requirements of Chapter 766?

 

An effective and comprehensive code of ethics, at a minimum, should articulate the legal, fiduciary and ethical responsibilities of board members, management and staff; include policies governing the obligations of management to its employees and the public; state the expectations of management concerning the appropriate professional and personal behavior of all employees; address the responsibilities of employees to ensure the proper and effective operation of the public authority; and include a clear statement on how the code will be enforced.   A model code of ethics can be found on the ABO web site under “Recommended Practices”.

 

Debt

 

In addition to any outstanding bonds and notes, does the term "debt" include other financial arrangements?

 

The term “debt” typically refers to outstanding bonds and notes.  For purposes of the required schedule of debt to be included in the annual report submitted pursuant to Section 2800 of the Public Authorities Law, debt includes certificates of participation, commercial loans, mortgage loans, and other financing obligations, such as refinancing, calls, refundings, defeasements and interest rate exchange for debt agreements.  Conduit debt should also be included in the schedule of debt as a separate line item to reflect bonds or notes issued to finance a project for a specific third party, excluding New York State.  Public authorities must also provide additional supporting information for new debt issuances in PARIS, including closing date, interest cost, type of interest, etc. 

 

What should not be included as “debt”?

 

Capital leases, equipment leases, or appropriated loans/first instance advances are not included as “debt” in PARIS.

 

Disposition of Property

 

What does the term "property" include?

 

Property is comprised of either real property or personal property.  A public authority should be guided by the definition of "real property" contained in its enabling legislation.  In the absence of a specific definition, the term generally applies to land, structures, franchises, easements, rights of way and licenses which the public authority could legally convey to another party.  Real property having an estimated fair market value in excess of $15,000 that the authority either acquired or disposed of during a reporting period is required to be disclosed in PARIS.  Personal property generally applies to all other items owned by the public authority, and includes all equipment, vehicles, and materials with a total value in excess of $5,000.  Authorities are required to disclose personal property disposed of during the reporting period with an estimated fair market value in excess of $5,000. 

 

What are the disclosure requirements for disposal of property through a negotiated transaction?

 

Public Authorities Law (Section 2897(6)(d)) requires public authorities to submit a written explanation of the circumstances involving the disposal of property through a negotiated transaction no less than 90 days prior to the scheduled date of the transaction. This applies to the following property: 

  • Personal property with an estimated fair market value greater than $15,000;
  • Real property having an estimated fair market value greater than $100,000, except that any real property disposed of by lease or exchange;
  • Real Property disposed of by lease, if the estimated annual rent over the term of the lease is in excess of $15,000;
  • Real property disposed of by exchange, regardless of value, or any property any part of the consideration for which is real property;
  • Related personal property disposed of by exchange, regardless of value, or any property any part of the consideration for which is real property.

This statement must be submitted to the ABO, NYS Comptroller, Director of the Budget, Commissioner of General Services, and the legislature.  For further information on what must be included in the explanatory statement, please see ABO Policy Guidance on the ABO web site. 

 

 

Dissolving a Public Authority

 

How do I dissolve a Public Authority?

 

Authorities Authorized in Statute

 

Public benefit corporations authorized under Public Authorities Law or General Municipal Law require an act of the New York State Legislature to dissolve.

If you believe that your authority created under PAL or GML should dissolve, the ABO recommends that you contact your local legislators to introduce legislation through a home rule message to dissolve the authority. A resolution adopted by the affiliated municipality stating that the authority is inactive and supporting the statutory dissolution of the authority should be provided to the ABO. Authorities in the process of dissolving created under PAL or GML will remain a public authority until such time as it is dissolved by the Legislature.

 

Not-for-Profit Corporations

 

In order to dissolve an authority created under Not-for-Profit Corporation Law, the board of directors must follow a formal process, as outlined by the Attorney

General's Office. 

 

Once the dissolution process is complete, the Department of State will send the corporation a receipt stating that the corporation's Certificate of Dissolution has been filed.

 

If your authority has begun the dissolution process, please provide copies to the ABO of any relevant dissolution documents, such as a Resolution adopted by the board to dissolve, or papers filed with the Attorney General's Office. When the ABO receives the official Certificate of Dissolution, the authority will be removed from the list of covered authorities.

 

Authorities in the process of dissolving are expected to comply with the public disclosure, reporting and corporate governance provisions of Public Authorities Law until such time as it is officially dissolved. The failure to comply with Public Authorities Law can result in the ABO taking enforcement action against the corporation's board of directors.

 

 

PARIS and Public Authority Reports

 

What is PARIS?

 

PARIS stands for Public Authorities Reporting Information System, and is the online electronic data entry and collection system jointly designed, developed, and operated by the Authorities Budget Office (ABO) and the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC).  Public authorities use PARIS to comply with the various reporting requirements of Public Authorities Law, General Municipal Law and OSC Regulations.

 

How often do I need to use PARIS?

 

Public authority staff use PARIS for: (1) submitting their budget reports (due 60 days before the start of the fiscal year for local authorities, and 90 days before the start of the fiscal year for State authorities); (2) submitting their annual reports (due 90 days after the end of the fiscal year); (3) providing copies of their independent audit (due 90 days after the end of the fiscal year); and (4) providing other documentation required to be filed.  However, access to PARIS will be available to public authority staff continuously throughout the year.  PARIS should be accessed whenever the public authority wants to update its data, such as for debt issuances or property transactions that occur throughout the year.  Data entered in PARIS throughout the year is retained and available for edits or revisions until verified, and reports are certified by the appropriate public authority official. 

 

Is training available for using PARIS?

 

The ABO periodically offers online webinars.  A schedule can be viewed by accessing the Authorities Budget Office web site, click on “Online PARIS Training Dates”:

 

What do I need to use PARIS?

 

PARIS is a web-based application.  Use of PARIS requires a personal computer with a standard web browser, such as Internet Explorer, or Google Chrome and an email account.  It may be beneficial if the user has access to high-speed Internet connections to facilitate the submission of data.

 

How do I access PARIS?

 

Users access PARIS with a User ID and Password via OSC's Online Services website at https://portal.osc.state.ny.us .

 

How do I get a User ID and Password to access PARIS?

 

Public authorities have to designate a Primary Authorizer, who is responsible and accountable for creating and maintaining the accounts of eligible PARIS users for their authority.  Users must initially go through their authority’s Primary Authorizer to first gain access to PARIS.  Which users have access to PARIS for purposes of entering data is determined by each authority.  Additional enrollment information can be found the ABO website under “Public Authorities Reporting Information System (PARIS): http://www.abo.ny.gov/paris/paris.html

 

Where are the links to PARIS located?

 

Links to the PARIS application are located on the ABO website at: http://www.abo.ny.gov/paris/paris.html   and the OSC’s website at: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/online_services/index.htm .  

 

Do I have to complete and submit all of the information during a single session?

 

No, public authority staff can access PARIS and enter data over as many sessions as necessary.  Users can save data at several points in PARIS and return at a later date without losing data that was entered and saved during a previous session.  In some cases, all required fields on a screen need to be completed before saving the data, but all screens do not need to be completed during a single session.  There is also the capability within PARIS to download templates, which public authority staff can complete offline (without being connected to PARIS), and upload the information entered in the templates at a later time.  When using this function, the user is specifically required to use the template provided in PARIS.  Any modifications to the template will not allow the information to be loaded successfully into the system.

 

Requirements for submitting reports indicate that the data needs to be certified by the chief executive officer and the chief financial officer of the authority.  How will this “certification” be handled?

 

The CEO or CFO, or their equivalents or designees serve as a “certifier”.  That person executes the function within PARIS that indicates they have reviewed the data entered, and that they believe it to be accurate and correct.  Completing this function constitutes electronic certification.  System checks within PARIS ensure that this function cannot be completed unless all required data elements have been entered.

 

Can the same person hold multiple roles in PARIS?  Can an authority designate more than one person for any particular role?

 

The same person can hold multiple roles in PARIS.  For example, the Primary Authorizer can also be a Preparer or Certifier.  Additionally, there is no limit on the number of authorizers, preparers or certifiers that an authority can designate in PARIS.

 

What are the contacts on the Authority Home Page used for?  Do I need to list all PARIS users as contacts?  Can the same person have multiple contact types?

 

Contacts entered on the Authority Home Page are those individuals designated by the authority to receive emails, correspondence, or telephone calls from the ABO or OSC.  This could include policy guidance from the ABO, questions on data submitted through PARIS, or any other information of importance to public authorities.  You do not need to enter all PARIS users here, just those that you would like us to contact for the above reasons.  You are required to enter four contact types in PARIS - CEO, CFO, Certifier and Preparer.  The same person may be designated for multiple contact types.

 

After entering data into PARIS, can we export a report for posting it on the authority’s website?

 

Yes, PARIS gives you the ability to generate and save a .pdf file of the reports.  In PARIS on the “Select Fiscal Year” screen, click on “Report” for the fiscal year report you’ve chosen and click on “Create New Report”.  PARIS will send a notification e-mail when the report is ready to be viewed.  Go to “Select Fiscal Year” screen again, click on “Report” for the fiscal year you’ve chosen to create a report for.  Click on “View Report”.  This will open a .pdf file of the report.

 

What about reporting to other people other than OSC and ABO -- i.e., a County Legislature? Does PARIS meet those requirements?

 

Reports certified in PARIS satisfy the reporting requirements to the ABO, OSC, the Governor's Office and the Director of the Budget's Office. If your authority is required to send information to other offices, PARIS allows for you to generate a .pdf report to satisfy those requirements.

 

Do I need to submit hard copy documents?

 

No, PARIS replaces the requirement for hard copy documentation being submitted to the ABO and OSC.  PARIS also provides the ability to attach electronic versions of documents, when necessary.

 

For all Bulk Load options (i.e., Staffing, Procurement contracts), can I use a template other than the PARIS template?

 

No.  You must use the template specifically provided in PARIS for the designated reporting year each time you use the Bulk Load function.  PARIS does not successfully bulk load a template used for a previous fiscal year.

 

Is the Budget & Financial Plan supposed to be on a cash or a modified accrual basis?

 

Modified accrual.

 

Can the categories for the Budget & Financial Plan be modified?

 

No.  The categories in PARIS were designed to provide the ABO and OSC a high-level summary of your authority’s budget and financial plan.  The more detailed categories that your authority uses for budgeting purposes should be included in the document that you post to your authority’s website.

 

If the authority’s Board modifies or amends the budget, does this need to be changed in PARIS?

 

State authorities must submit significant changes to their budget pursuant to OSC Regulations using the OSC Budget Impact Statement tab.  Authorities that are not subject to OSC Regulations do not need to modify or amend their approved budget in PARIS.

 

Does the Staff screen pertain to only those staff making more than $100,000?

 

All staff must be listed regardless of salary or title.  This employee roster satisfies the requirements of PAL 2800 and PAL 2806.

 

Who is considered Staff?  What is meant by ‘exempt’?

 

For purposes of completing the Staff screen, ”staff” is an individual who (1) draws a salary from the authority and would appear on its payroll roster, or (2) is paid by another entity and assigned as staff to the public authority and whose work station would, by any reasonable measure, be considered that of the public authority, its headquarters, facilities, or offices and who would be entitled to use the assets and equipment of the authority, and (3) an individual who works for the authority pursuant to a personal or professional services contract with a non-governmental entity. would also be considered staff , however, the salary and compensation fields should be recorded as “0” and the information on this individual's title, salary, benefits and duties should be included in the contract and reflected in the Procurement Report.

 

Section 41(1) of the Civil Service Law identifies public officers and positions which shall be in the Exempt Class and provides that the Exempt Class shall include "all other offices or positions for which the Civil Service Commission has determined it is not practicable to fill by competitive or non-competitive examination.” Such positions are not tenure bearing.

 

How should the authority report salary information for staff whose salaries are not paid by the authority?

 

The salary and compensation information should reflect only the amount paid by the authority.  If the staff person’s salary is entirely paid for by another entity you would enter $0 in the salary and compensation fields.  If the public authority reimburses a local government for the salary of staff assigned to work for the authority, the amount reimbursed for salary should be entered in the salary and compensation fields.  In addition, the authority should answer "Yes" to the question “Is the individual also paid by another entity to perform the work of the Authority?”  If the authority has a personal services contract with a not-for-profit or outside entity for staff to serve as the CEO, CFO or another staff position of the authority, enter “0” in the salary and compensation fields, answer “Yes” to the question indicating that the staff person’s salary is paid by another entity.  In addition, this contract should be entered in the Procurement Report and the amount paid to the staff person should be included as part of the contract amount.

 

Do the questions ”Is the individual also paid by another entity to perform the work of the Authority?  If “yes”, is the payment made by a State or local government?” apply if the individual has a second job that is unrelated to the authority?

 

No.  These questions are meant only to identify individuals who work for the authority and are paid for that work by another entity or a State or local government agency.  The authority is not expected to identify and report on individuals who hold second jobs unrelated to their positions or employment status with the public authority. 

 

Should the staff salary information be reported as of the end of the fiscal year?

 

Public authorities have the option of reporting salary information based on either the staff roster as of December 31st or the staff roster as of the end of your authority’s fiscal year, whichever is consistent with your authority’s payroll records.

 

Should staff paid by personal services contracts be included in the staff listing?

 

Yes .They should be listed as staff in the Annual Report with “0” in the salary and compensations fields.  Personal services contracts should be listed as procurement contracts, if they exceed $5,000. Individuals who work for the authority pursuant to a personal or professional service contract are considered staff of the authority.

 

Do you have to answer benefit questions for staff making more than $100,000 even if they do not hold managerial positions?

 

Yes, the list of staff on the benefits screen is pre-populated based on the salary information provided on the staff screen.

 

What if an IDA project has been entered in to PARIS and there is a subsequent decision that the project will not move forward – how will this be captured in PARIS?

 

If an IDA has entered a project in PARIS and that project is subsequently denied or terminated with no ongoing financial agreements remaining in place, the authority should check the boxes at the bottom of the "Modify IDA Project" screen relating to that project.  Under “Project Status”, click on the box next to “Current year is the last year that Project information needs to be reported.” In order to check this box, the three options that follow must also be true.  When checking these boxes, the project will move to the “Completed Project List” next year, no longer appear on the “Active Project List” and will not roll forward into the next reporting year.

 

What does PARIS consider an ‘active project’?

 

An "active project" is one in which the authority and the project developer have entered into a written agreement that outlines the terms and conditions imposed on the project developer and where at least one of the following has happened: the project had straight lease transactions; the project had bonds or notes issued, outstanding or retired; the project had the property title transferred to the IDA or have not yet transferred title back to the project owner; or the project received tax exemptions or other financial assistance through the IDA.

 

What transactions need to be included on the Procurement Report?

 

This Report should include the procurement guidelines adopted by the public authority and a list of all procurement contracts.  Procurement guidelines should reflect the policies governing the awarding, monitoring, and use and reporting of contracts and establish the dollar thresholds for purchases requiring board approval.  Procurement contracts are defined as any written agreement for the purchase of goods or services in the actual or estimated amount of $5,000 or more.  

 

Do all purchase orders need to be included in the Procurement Report?

 

For purchase orders and other non-contract procurements, the authority should roll up all purchases from the same vendor into a single transaction and report that as one transaction if the total equals or exceeds $5,000.  Authorities are not required to report individual purchases of less than $5,000 or multiple purchases through a single vendor if the cumulative value of those purchases is less than $5,000 in the reporting year.  It is expected that purchases in the amount of $5,000 or more and executed with a purchase order would be either subject to an established contract or referred to the board for prior approval, pursuant to the authority's procurement guidelines.

 

Since the format for the Property Documents screen is not defined, can we use the same format as in the past?

 

The Property Documents can be submitted as formatted by your authority. Individual property transactions will have to be recorded using the PARIS property acquisition and disposal screens.

 

Subsidiaries 

 

Do public authorities have the legal authority to create a subsidiary?

 

No public authority as defined by Section 2 of the Public Authorities Law and established in statute, may form a subsidiary corporation unless such power is expressly granted to it in its enabling legislation. The New York State Attorney General has opined that industrial development agencies do not have the statutory power to form subsidiary corporations. The Attorney General Formal Opinion No. 2014-F1 states that “nothing in the enabling statutes governing IDAs expressly authorizes the creation of a subsidiary…an IDA is fully able to fulfill its purpose without creating a subsidiary and thus the power to create a subsidiary is not necessarily implied from the powers expressly granted.”  Please refer to ABO Policy Guidance for additional information. 

 

A public authority has created one or more subsidiary corporations that do not operate as independent entities.  Are these subsidiaries subject to the requirements of this Act?

 

The power to form a subsidiary corporation must be provided to the public authority by specific legislative language. No public authority which is established in statute may form a subsidiary in the absence of legislation providing such expressed or necessarily implied power.  

 

A subsidiary that has a Board of Directors substantially different from the composition of the parent public authority board and that functions autonomously with its own staff is a subsidiary for purposes of this Act and must independently comply with its requirements.  Subsidiaries that have common membership on boards of directors as the parent corporation, rely on the staff of the parent organization and function in a practical sense as a division, office or unit of the parent public authority do not have to separately comply with Chapter 766.  However, their activities, debt, practices and operations are to be included in the reports submitted by the parent public authority.