By Andrew Wroblewski
Northport-East Northport School District officials stood by their budgeting practices Monday as they approved a corrective action plan in response to a state audit.
Despite being criticized in an October 2014 audit by the New York State Comptroller’s office for overestimating budget appropriations by a total of nearly $34 million over a five-year period from the 2008-’09 to 2012-’12 school years released, district officials responded on Monday by unanimously passing a corrective action plan in which their policies will remain mostly unchanged.
“We feel that our budgets have been transparent, our budgets have been realistic,” Kathleen Molander, the district’s Assistant Superintendent for Business, said following the Jan. 12 Board of Education meeting. “I think the board wants to move forward and continue the transparency that it’s had.”
A call for “transparent” and “more realistic” budgets were two of the findings listed in the auditors’ report, but Molander said both conditions already exist.
“Everything [budgeting documents and reports] is posted to the district’s website, everything is presented publically at meetings,” Molander said. “Everything has been very transparent.”
As far as “more realistic” budgets go, the district’s corrective action plan – which is found on its website and was prepared by Molander, former Superintendent Marylou McDermott and the district’s audit committee – states that: “The District has taken steps to ‘tighten’ its budget.
“This is evident when reviewing the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 financial statements that reflects operating deficits of $4.9 million and $2.8 million respectively,” the plan reads.
Through this practice, the district has decreased its fund balance by $7.8 million, while successfully remaining under the 2 percent tax-levy increase for six straight fiscal years.
In the corrective action plan, district members also addressed the state auditors’ concern regarding Northport-East Northport’s retirement contribution reserve fund and what the auditors saw as a need for a formal plan as to how those reserves will be funded. District officials detailed how “there is no special limit on the maximum allowable amount in the retirement contribution reserve fund” and that it will develop a fund balance policy that is reflective of its current procedures.
Along with the corrective action plan for the New York State Comptroller office’s audit, the board of education also unanimously approved a corrective action plan to address the findings of an external audit that was conducted by Cullen & Danowski, LLP, of Port Jefferson Station, for the 2013-’14 school year.