New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced his office completed audits of the Albany Leadership Charter High School for Girls, Charter School for Applied Technologies, Eugenio Maria de Hostos Charter School, Germantown Central School District, Niagara Charter School, Oracle Charter School, Southside Academy Charter School and the True North Rochester Preparatory Charter School.
“In an era of limited resources and increased accountability, it’s critical that schools make every dollar count,” DiNapoli said. “By auditing school district and charter school finances and operations, my office continues to provide taxpayers the assurance that their money is being spent appropriately and effectively.”
The charter school entered into a three-year compact agreement with the Brighter Choice Foundation in April 2013. The compact, however, does not provide sufficient detail of the activities the foundation will engage in or how delivery of services will be measured.
The board approved transfers of $425,000 to capitalize two private entities which were established to enable the school to engage in commercial ventures. Auditors could not determine if the board had authority to approve the transfers and could not assess the level of risk involved with these ventures because school officials refused to provide access to specific financial records.
The school entered into four building leases without any process for determining the fair rental value of the buildings. The leases and contracts were entered into with organizations having various types of business or occupational relationships with members of the board or their family or friends. The school also lacked appropriate information technology policies and procedures.
District officials have exceeded the 4 percent fund balance limit by an average of approximately $1.1 million in the fiscal years 2009-10 through 2012-13, levied more real property taxes than necessary and retained large amounts of taxpayer dollars without full disclosure of how these funds will be used.
Auditors found that certain billings were not accurate and enrollment was not always adequately supported. In some instances, school officials incorrectly calculated full-time enrollments, which resulted in overbilling school districts by more than $10,200. In addition, the school’s system of collecting and reporting student data could be improved.
The board did not demonstrate that it used an appropriate process to ensure it obtained a suitable building site at a reasonable cost. The board agreed to an arrangement requiring it to pay more than $5 million for the acquisition and renovation of its school building financed at a 20 percent interest rate. In addition, the business office did not maintain accurate leave accrual records for all employees.
The board's oversight of the school’s fiscal affairs could be improved. Although the board reviews and approves budgets and budget amendments, budgetary information and quarterly financial statements do not allow the board to identify the fee for services paid to its management company.
True North Rochester Preparatory Charter School – West Campus – Employee Fingerprinting (Monroe County)
The school did not consistently comply with the law and guidance regarding fingerprint-supported criminal background checks. By failing to file appropriate employee background checks and updated clearance requests with the State Education Department’s Office of School Personnel Review and Accountability, the school would not be notified of an arrest, either prior or subsequent to an employee’s hire, which may compromise student safety.
For access to state and local government spending and nearly 50,000 state contracts, visit http://www.openbooknewyork.com. The easy-to-use website was created by Comptroller DiNapoli to promote openness in government and provide taxpayers with better access to the financial workings of government.