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DiNapoli: Lack of Transparency With School Districts' Financial Reports May Leave Taxpayers in the Dark

School Districts Across the State Failed to Disclose Important Financial Information on Websites

March 23, 2021

Schools in 13 districts statewide did not always post required financial information in a clear and comprehensive manner on their websites, according to a report released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. When they did post the information, it was often hard to find.

“Taxpayers should have easy access to information about their school districts’ finances,” DiNapoli said. “Voters need this information to make informed decisions on how they will vote on school budgets. District officials have a responsibility to foster public trust by operating with the greatest possible transparency and making comprehensive information readily available to the public.”

Auditors examined 13 randomly selected school districts from around the state. The audit, covering the period from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019, found that while each district maintained a website, many did not post all mandatory financial information including final budgets, external audits and corrective action plans (CAPs).

The 13 districts, whose 2019-20 budgeted expenditures totaled approximately $588 million, posted their original budgets on their websites. All but two, Beacon City School District and Rockville Centre Union Free School District, did so in an easy to find location. However, auditors found that the original budgets posted online were missing required components in four districts (Hunter-Tannersville Central School District, Newark Central School District, New Lebanon Central School District and York Central School District). The missing information included fund balance, salary disclosures and property tax report cards. Officials at these four districts told auditors they were unaware that information is required.

DiNapoli’s report also found:

  • Six school districts (Beacon City School District, Hunter-Tannersville Central School District, Newark Central School District, New Lebanon Central School District, Rockville Centre Union Free School District and York Central School District) did not post original budget information that was easy to locate.
  • Three of the 13 districts (Grand Island Central School District, New Lebanon Central School District and Saranac Central School District) posted a comprehensive final annual budget.
  • Two districts (Central Square Central School District and Newark Central School District) prepared and posted a multiyear financial plan, which would disclose the longer-term financial implications of the districts’ fiscal decisions.
  • Five districts (Grand Island Central School District, Haldane Central School District, Otego-Unadilla Central School District, Rockville Centre Union Free School District and Saranac Central School District) posted required audit reports in an easy to find location.

The audits included several recommendations for the school districts to improve the transparency of their financial information.

Report
School District Website Transparency


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