Assemblyman Philip Ramos (D-Central Islip) announced that the Assembly passed a package of bills he sponsored to provide increased transparency and accountability for volunteer fire companies and districts.
“Over the past year there have been several reports of fiscal irregularities at Long Island fire departments,” Ramos said. “This legislation creates a fiscal reporting system that will help everyone involved. The integrity of our brave volunteer firefighters will be preserved, and the taxpayers will have a better idea of how their money is being spent.”
Under the legislation, all state fire districts with more than $200,000 in revenue would be required to have independent audits. In addition, a public vote would need to be held before a fire district could create a reserve fund for new buildings and equipment. The state comptroller would also be able to audit the books of not-for-profit fire companies.
“As chair of the Assembly Volunteer Emergency Services Subcommittee, I believe these reform measures create a system with more transparency which leads to improved support and understanding from local communities,” Ramos said. “With a greater understanding from the general public comes an even greater appreciation for the brave individuals who put their lives on the line for our community every day.”
Specifically, Ramos prime-sponsored bills that would:
- increase the amount and quality of information available to taxpayers by requiring certain information to be posted on fire district and municipal Web sites (A.10482).
- ensure fire commissioners are equipped with the tools they need to perform financial oversight by establishing education requirements for district commissioners (A.10484).
Other bills included in the package would:
- provide greater oversight of fire district finances by requiring periodic outside audits and establishing additional criteria for travel and banquet expenses (A.10478, A.10473, A.10477, A.10480 and A.10476);
- encourage greater awareness and involvement of taxpayers by requiring voter approval for the creation of fire district reserve funds, clarifying when special elections can be conducted, and by establishing a statewide volunteer fire district budget hearing day (A.10475, A.10481, A.10474);
- encourage accountability by requiring fire districts and fire companies to develop codes of ethics (A.10479 and A.10485).
“These measures compliment the Assembly’s record of reform – including efforts to clean up public authorities, revamp campaign finance laws, provide more oversight of the awarding of state contracts and improve the state budget process,” Ramos said. “I strongly urge the Senate and governor to advance this legislation into law and improve oversight of the spending of taxpayer dollars.”