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March 20, 2007

 

DiNapoli Announces Unprecedented, Real-Time
Fiscal Monitoring of Roosevelt School District

Comptroller Will Issue Quarterly Reports on Whether
School District is Staying within 2007-08 Budgeted Appropriations

Steps Taken in Conjunction with Increased SED Oversight

In an unprecedented action, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said today that his office will audit the Roosevelt School District on a real-time basis for the upcoming fiscal year to determine whether the school district is monitoring spending and staying within its 2007-08 budget. DiNapoli’s announcement follows a recent Comptroller’s audit that found that the district spent about $12 million more than it budgeted over the last two years.

The Comptroller’s actions will be undertaken in conjunction with increased oversight of the district by the State Education Department (SED). The real-time audit will commence in early May.

“The Roosevelt School District has struggled with fiscal issues for years, and its deficit has grown so large that it threatens ongoing operations. To protect the interests of the Roosevelt community and its students and taxpayers, we will take unprecedented action to establish fiscal discipline and good financial management practices at Roosevelt schools,” DiNapoli said. “For the first time ever at a school district in New York State, our auditors will provide intensive monitoring of daily financial transactions on a real-time basis, to ensure that the district is spending within budgeted appropriations. We will report on our findings quarterly to ensure total accountability and allow the community to monitor the district’s progress toward fiscal stability.”

A Comptroller’s audit released on March 6 found that the district ended fiscal year 05-06 with a $6.2 million deficit equal to more than 11 percent of the district’s general fund. Auditors estimated that the district will sustain an operating deficit of $6.1 million for 2006-07, for a total accumulated deficit of $12.3 million, unless significant action is taken to eliminate unnecessary spending and control costs. The primary causes of the deficit were overspending of budget items, repeated unrealistic estimates of state aid revenue, poor budgeting and financial management practices, and inadequate long-term planning.

In March 2002, after persistent problems at Roosevelt School District, the State Legislature authorized additional oversight by the commissioner of education, including the appointment of a new board. The Legislature also provided deficit financing of about $5.8 million to liquidate an accumulated deficit, and provided an additional $6 million in state aid annually.

State Senator Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) said, “We need to put this intensive monitoring system in place because State Education Commissioner Richard Mills has failed in his oversight of Roosevelt School District. The Comptroller’s involvement will add an additional layer of supervision to provide much-needed fiscal stability. I welcome Comptroller DiNapoli’s audit plan and will be working closely with him to ensure that Roosevelt gets back on sound financial ground.”

Assemblywoman Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) said, “The community – including the students, parents and taxpayers – did not cause this problem. Since the State Education Department has been present in the district, it should be held solely responsible. That means no punishment to the community directly or indirectly. I commend Comptroller DiNapoli for his efforts to help Roosevelt address these serious problems.”

Assemblyman Tom McKevitt (R-East Meadow) said, “I applaud State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli for highlighting the need to eliminate unnecessary spending and control costs, which are placing a financial strain on the Roosevelt School District. By addressing this problem now the state can come up with a long-term plan that makes sense and will allow the school district to get back on the right path to giving their students the best education possible.”

Regent Roger B. Tilles, the Long Island representative on the State Board of Regents, said, “This is a critically important step that brings together different parts of government to build the success we seek in Roosevelt. The Comptroller’s ongoing work will help us build public confidence in Roosevelt’s finances.”

State Education Commissioner Richard Mills said, “We cut the deficit by $4.4 million last week and are now creating a balanced 2007-08 budget and a broader plan to eliminate the entire deficit. The Comptroller’s continuous auditing and reporting will give us the information we need and guarantee the integrity of Roosevelt’s finances going forward, both of which are essential to our plan for eliminating the deficit.”

Generally, Comptroller’s audits of school districts examine past management practices and finances. This audit will entail a daily analysis, or real-time evaluation, of financial transactions to determine the impact of these actions on the district’s budget. Auditors will issue quarterly reports on the results of their work and will communicate their findings to SED and the public.

“This has been a long-term problem that has raised serious concerns for residents and elected officials, but I hope that by working together we can put the district on the right track fiscally and begin a more constructive working relationship,” DiNapoli said. “The Roosevelt community deserves no less.”

Click here for a copy of the audit plan

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