The state must better manage the money that New York residents donate through their income tax returns to causes ranging from breast and prostate cancer research to finding missing children, the state Comptroller’s Office said in a report released this morning that calls for several reforms.
Spurred by a Democrat and Chronicle story in October that detailed balances which have piled up in some of the accounts that taxpayers can support, the comptroller’s report said state agencies that oversee these funds have been increasingly slow to put the money to use, the Democrat and Chronicle reported this morning.
In the first five years of the past decade, the state spent 70 percent of the $11.5 million collected from donations through tax form checkoffs, as well as state matching funds, special license plate sales and other sources of funding to the same accounts. Over the past five years, that figure plunged to 43 percent — agencies released only $5.1 million of $12 million collected to the causes for which the money is intended.
That lack of action is hindering the funds’ potential and could erode taxpayers’ interest in the programs, the report says.
“New Yorkers deserve to know that when they donate to an important purpose through a personal income tax checkoff box, such funds will expended in a timely and effective manner to benefit the cause for which they were intended,” the report says.
Since the creation of the first “Return a Gift to Wildlife” checkoff fund in 1982, taxpayers have given more than $51 million, the report says.
The Comptroller’s Office is calling for several changes in how the eight funds that exist today are administered, including more standardized reporting rules and requiring state agencies to file annual details of how they go about rewarding the money and how much each recipient gets.