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Office of the New York State Comptroller

School Accountability Reform

In 2004, the Comptroller's Office initiated an unprecedented program to review school district finances and operations and offer services that will increase accountability in school districts and strengthen oversight of school finances all across New York State.

Initiating a New Audit Program
The Comptroller’s office will audit all school districts, BOCES and charter schools statewide by 2010. Regular audits by the State Comptroller were discontinued in the early 1980’s when school districts were required to secure an outside auditor.

  • The Comptroller's Office developed the new audit program after a 2004 audit of Roslyn school district in Long Island revealed misuse of taxpayer funds in that district totaling more than $11 million.
  • These audits generally focus on financial controls and operations, but could include any part of school district operations depending on the situation at the time of audit.

Strengthening School Oversight
Working with a coalition of school and professional organizations, the Comptroller's Office developed legislation to strengthen auditing, training and financial oversight by school district officials and boards.

The new law was created with the New York State School Boards Association, the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants, the New York State Council of School Superintendents, the New York State Association of School Business Officials and the State Education Department (SED). It includes the following provisions:

  • Requires six hours of training for school board members on their financial oversight responsibilities.
  • Establishes an internal audit function within each school district.
  • Creates audit committees in school districts.
  • Mandates a competitive RFP process for selecting audit firms at least every five years.
  • Improves the effectiveness of annual external audits by requiring direct school board involvement and a formal response to issues raised in the audit.

Training
The State Education Department has worked with the State Comptroller’s office to approve a school board training curriculum and to develop regulations regarding internal audit requirements. OSC has collaborated with SED to develop guidance for school districts to help strengthen their external financial audits. OSC has also developed guidance for school district officials on procuring external audit services, and SED has developed an RFP template for districts that prefer to use it rather than developing their own.