DiNapoli: Poor Budgeting at Williamsville CSD Led to
$30 Million Operating Surplus Over Four Years
District Increased Tax Levy by $10.5 Million in Same Period
Poor budget practices at Williamsville Central School District caused revenues to exceed expenses by $30.1 million from 2004-05 through 2007-08 while at the same time the district increased the tax levy by $10.5 million, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. Approximately $8.9 million in excess funds could be used to benefit taxpayers by reducing the property tax levy or paying one-time expenses.
“All across New York, families are watching every dime,” DiNapoli said. “School districts should be watching every dime too. Williamsville Central School District needs to use more realistic budget numbers. Taxpayers should not have to pay more property taxes than necessary.”
The audit found the district did not prepare reasonable budgets because it consistently overestimated expenditures and underestimated revenues. This resulted in the district generating operating surpluses totaling more than $30.1 million from 2004-05 through 2007-08. During this same period, the district increased the tax levy by $10.5 million.
DiNapoli’s audit found the district used a majority of the annual surpluses to fund reserves. As of June 2008, the balances in the district’s 11 general fund reserves totaled $38 million. Of which, approximately $8.9 million is more than the district needs to meet anticipated liabilities and could be used to benefit taxpayers by reducing the tax levies or paying for one-time expenses.
The district’s $8.9 million in excess funds included:
- $3.5 million that the district said was owed to the capital projects fund but was not associated with specific capital projects;
- $3.1 million in appropriated fund balance that the district never used;
$1.2 million in a debt reserve;
$600,000 in a tax certiorari reserve;
$400,000 in improperly reported encumbrances for goods and services the district said remained from the previous year but were not ordered until the next year or were never ordered; and
$100,000 in an uncollected taxes reserve that the district was not authorized to establish.
DiNapoli’s audit also found the district’s claims auditor did not audit every claim prior to payment as required by Education Law. As a result, there is an increased risk that the district will make payments for other than district purposes.
DiNapoli’s office recommends that district officials:
- prepare budgets that realistically estimate revenues and expenditures;
- use the surplus fund balance to benefit district taxpayers by reducing property taxes, paying off debt or financing one-time expenses; and
- ensure each claim is properly audited prior to payment.
The district did not agree with many of the audit’s findings. The district’s full response is included in the audit. To view the audit, visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/schools/2010/williamsville.pdf.
Click here for a copy of the Williamsville CSD audit.
School District Accountability
In order to improve accountability of the state’s schools, DiNapoli’s office will audit all of New York’s school districts and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services by March 2010. The State Comptroller’s office has completed 732 school audits.