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August 8, 2008

DiNapoli: Cohoes CSD Spent More Than $1 Million Without
Seeking the Best Possible Price

$800,000 Also Spent Without Prior Authorization

Inadequate financial controls at the Cohoes City School District caused the district to pay nearly $1 million to vendors with no indication it sought the best price, spent more than $800,000 without prior authorization and purchased nearly $100,000 in goods without advertising for bids as required, according to an audit released by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

“School district officials need to watch how every tax dollar is spent and ensure that they are not spending more than necessary for goods and services,” said DiNapoli. “The Cohoes school district needs to make sure every penny it spends is not a penny too much.”

The audit also identified $20,077 in operating losses from vending machine sales and $4,388 in separation payments to employees who may not have been entitled to the money.

The audit, which covers the period July 2005 to June 2007, found that:

  • $955,770 in goods and services were purchased with no indication that officials sought quotes for better prices;
  • 36 school district checks totaling $817,987 were printed, released and deposited by vendors before the board audited and authorized these payments;
  • district officials made three purchases totaling more than $96,000 without advertising for public bids as required by law and school policy;
  • revenue from vending machine sales has been declining steadily since the 2003-04 fiscal year, although purchases have not declined in a corresponding way, causing operating losses totaling $20,077 since 2003-04, and inadequate recordkeeping could not explain the loss; and
  • district officials paid the former food service director and treasurer separation payments totaling $4,388 that were not authorized by the Board and to which these individuals may not have been entitled.

DiNapoli recommended that district officials:

  • comply with the General Municipal Law’s competitive bidding requirements when procuring goods and services;
  • formally establish a detailed procurement policy and standard forms for goods and services that are exempt from competitive bidding and require that price quotes be obtained;
  • require that all claims be audited and certified by the claims auditor prior to disbursing funds to vendors; and
  • clarify the personnel policy and review time records and personnel files and verify compliance before authorizing separation payments, and seek recovery of any overpayments where appropriate.

District officials generally agreed with DiNapoli’s recommendations, and indicated they would take corrective action.

School District Accountability:
In order to improve accountability of the state’s schools, DiNapoli’s office will audit all of New York’s 834 school districts, Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) and charter schools by 2010. The State Comptroller’s office has completed 470 school audits and approximately 200 school audits are currently underway.

Click here for a copy of the audit.



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