DiNapoli: Improved Oversight Needed at Batavia CSD
Audit Cites Overpayments and Excessive Reserves
The Batavia City School District made more than $50,000 in improper or unsupported payments to 12 employees and has inappropriately accumulated approximately $7.3 million in excess funds that could be better used to benefit taxpayers, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
“Now more than ever, local governments and school districts should be watching every taxpayer dime,” DiNapoli said. “The Batavia City School District has $7.3 million that could be used to lower taxes. The district needs to do a better job overseeing its finances and protecting taxpayers.”
DiNapoli’s auditors reviewed the annual compensation of 17 employees, finding ten, or 59 percent, were overpaid or received compensation which was not provided for in their contracts or supported by sufficient documentation. Auditors also reviewed payments made to six employees for their unused leave time and found that three of them were overpaid. One administrator was overpaid by more than $24,000 over a nine-year period.
Additionally, auditors found district officials have not ensured that budget estimates and reserve balances are reasonable and they have not established and maintained reserves in accordance with legal requirements.
Auditors determined the district inappropriately accumulated approximately $7.3 million in excess funds in a manner that has not been in the best interest of taxpayers. For example, the District’s reported reserve for encumbrances on June 30, 2008 was $1.4 million. Auditors reviewed the supporting documentation for 33 entries totaling $569,849 and determined that 18, totaling $488,701 were inappropriately accounted for as encumbrances.
Had these practices not occurred, and had District officials complied with statutory limitations for retained fund balance, the excess could have been used for District operations, or to fund necessary reserves or to reduce the tax levy.
- Auditors recommend, along with other measures, that the district and board:
- Take action to recover any salary and separation payments determined to have been improperly made or credited to current and former employees.
- Establish comprehensive payroll procedures to ensure that employee compensation is properly calculated and all salary payments, including any longevity and separation payments, are paid in accordance with contracts.
- Designate an appropriate district official, independent of the payroll process, to review salary calculations, non-routine salary adjustments, and separation payments.
- Review their current budgeting practices and provide the most accurate representation of projected appropriations and revenues based upon all information available.
- Develop a plan to use the surplus fund balance to benefit district taxpayers.
- Review all reserves and determine if the amounts reserved are necessary, reasonable and in compliance with the law.
For a copy of the complete audit, click here.
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 2010. The State Comptroller's office has completed 690 school audits and approximately 40 school audits are currently underway.