Island Park UFSD Had More
Tax Dollars Than It Needed
The Island Park Union Free School District inappropriately kept $1.7 million in reserves that should have been kept in the general fund balance for school programs or tax reductions, according to an audit released by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The audit also found that financial and information technology controls were weak, exposing the district’s finances and records to theft or loss. Additionally, the district may have paid out more than it should have in payroll and purchases.
“Long Island taxpayers are already facing a tough enough challenge without school districts denying them $1.7 million in tax relief,” DiNapoli said. “These days, every dime counts, especially when they’re taxpayer dimes. Island Park needs to get a better handle on its finances and use excess funds to cut taxes wherever possible. Taxpayers deserve every break they can get.”
Among the audit’s findings:
- As of June 2008, the district had accumulated $526,215 more than necessary to satisfy all liabilities against the employee benefit accrued liability reserve (EBALR) fund;
- Weak controls over hand-drawn checks allowed seven checks totaling $396,845 to be issued before administrative approval. In one instance, duplicate checks were prepared for the same $2,330 claim;
- District officials did not request public bids for two purchases totaling $42,912 and two public works contracts totaling $109,143. For nine of the 10 professional service contracts DiNapoli’s auditors examined, there was no competitive bidding;
- The district also did not comply with State Education Department (SED) regulations for a $387,750 capital construction project. As a result, there was no assurance that the work complied with building code and project specifications, or that contractor billings reflected the work done;
- District officials also did not properly authorize, document, and monitor overtime. Of $200,961 that the district paid for overtime in fiscal year 2007-08, 11 employees received $138,503 without written pre-approval or justification; and
- District officials did not control or monitor physical access to the student data server room, leaving the district’s IT equipment and sensitive data vulnerable to unauthorized access and potential misuse or damage.
DiNapoli recommended that district officials:
- Reduce the EBALR and stop over funding it;
- Be sure that budget transfers get proper board approval;
- Do not issue hand drawn checks without proper approval;
- Use a competitive bidding process for the purchase of goods and professional services and be sure professional contracts detail the services provided including all costs;
- Ensure that relevant purchases comply with state bidding requirements and district policy;
- Do not approve professional services claims for payment unless they are supported by a written contract or board resolution that verifies the payment is appropriate;
- File construction project plans with the SED for a building permit before requesting public bids;
- Require a written justification and pre-approval of all overtime worked, and verify that OT was worked; and
- Protect computer data from loss, implement a disaster recovery plan, and limit physical access to the district’s computerized network.
District officials generally agreed with DiNapoli’s recommendations and indicated that they planned to take or have taken corrective action.
For a copy of the audit visit http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/schools/2009/islandpark.pdf.
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 665 school audits and more than 60 are currently underway.