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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Audits of Local Governments and School Districts

Clifton-Fine Central School District – Financial Condition and Transportation Aid Claims (2011M-213)


Released: January 20, 2012 -- [read complete report - pdf]

Purpose of Audit

The purpose of our audit was to examine the District's financial condition and to review the procedures for claiming transportation aid from the State Education Department for the period July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2010.

Background

The Clifton-Fine Central School District is located in the Towns of Clifton, Fine, Pitcairn and Russell in St. Lawrence County. The District is governed by the Board of Education which comprises seven elected members. The District's budgeted expenditures for each of the 2008-09 and 2009-10 fiscal years were $9.1 million.

Key Findings

  • District officials consistently overestimated expenditures for the past five years, by a total of $4.5 million. As a result, the District had operating surpluses totaling $2.3 million in four of the last five years, and did not need to use the majority of the $1.2 million of fund balance which the Board appropriated as a revenue source in the general fund budgets over the last five years. Despite its budgetary surpluses, the District also increased its real property tax levy by approximately $300,000 – a total of 8 percent – over the last five years.
  • District officials did not adequately inform taxpayers about how the seven general fund reserves were funded. The District overfunded four of these reserves.
  • The District was not claiming all of its eligible miles for State aid. Therefore, during the State aid years 2009-10 and 2010-11 the District potentially lost revenue of $26,500 and $23,000 respectively.

Key Recommendations

  • Develop realistic expenditure and fund balance estimates for the annual budget. Develop a plan for the use of the surplus balances in unreserved, unappropriated fund balance and in the District's reserve funds identified in this report in a manner that benefits District taxpayers.
  • Include both the funding and use of all reserves in their adopted budget plan each year to provide increased knowledge and transparency for the District's voters. Review all reserves and determine if the amounts reserved are necessary, reasonable and in compliance with statutory requirements.
  • File an amended transportation aid form for the 2010-11 fiscal year with the correct mileage numbers in order to maximize transportation aid for the District.

Local Government and School Accountability Contact Information:

Phone: (518) 474-4037; Email: localgov@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller, Division of Local Government and School Accountability
110 State Street, 12th Floor; Albany, NY 12236