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Audit finds North Collins School District in good shape

NORTH COLLINS — The North Collins School Board received its annual external audit during its Sept. 10 meeting and learned that its books are in fine shape.

John Schiavone of Buffalo CPA firm Lumsden & McCormick LLP told the board that this audit differs from past exercises in that school districts must now follow governmental auditing procedures, a change that requires additional review and calculations. He also noted that, since the district’s amount of federal stimulus money is now below the $500,000 threshold, it did not have to conduct a separate audit of those funds, as it has for the past two years.

The audit showed an increase of $148,000 in assets and a decline in liabilities, stemming largely from the refinancing of the capital improvement bonds the district issued.

Putting emphasis on the district’s reserve funds, Schiavone said, “Now is the time to start using reserve funds to balance budgets.” He singled out the capital reserve fund as a target, as those funds must be used or lost by 2019. Schiavone reminded the board that the state property tax cap is 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. “The inflation figure established by the state comptroller for this year is 1.66 percent, ” he said.

Schiavone added the audit found a drop in cafeteria revenues and suggested the board keep an eye on that line. He speculated that changes in menus to meet dietary standards, begun last year, could be playing a role, but would require additional study.

The audit specified areas of improvement, including a vending machine operated by the varsity club as a fundraiser.

The auditor said that the informal setup offers no opportunity for reconciliation and suggested that some segregation of duties in stocking and retrieving funds from the machine be established.

His firm also verified the findings of an earlier internal audit of the transportation department, which focused on a lack of time cards for drivers, better accountability regarding service provisions and better accounting of fuel distribution.

Schiavone ended by saying, “You should be proud of the financial shape you are in.”

Also making an appearance was Dr. David O’Rourke, superintendent of Erie Boards of Cooperative Educational Services 2, who came at the request of Board President Shannon Locking, to explain use of funds the district has with BOCES, as part of the “Race To The Top” federal funding.

According to O’Rourke, North Collins pooled its money with the 25 other school districts in the BOCES area. The local share’s $28,000 was divided over four years. With one year left, North Collins has $7,000 to apply toward programs or technology that can help meet benchmarks, recruit staff or record progress toward goals.

District Superintendent Benjamin Halsey solicited the board’s opinion about two matters. The first regarded an exploration of using social media to increase communication with the community and the second was a “laundry list” of recently compiled possible infrastructure improvements.

Halsey said that he thought it might be possible to establish a Facebook or Twitter account for the district, but only after reviewing any implications to the district’s current computer system, especially concerning security.

Locking said that she thought the idea had merit, but cautioned against letting public posts appear on any district page. She noted that the elementary school parent-teacher association and the Music Boosters use Facebook pages to communicate with members.

The list of possible improvements to district buildings and their capabilities followed a review with an architectural firm from Rochester. Halsey mentioned a few items, including a canopy at the elementary school’s bus loop entrance. He said that attention should be given to projects that increase energy efficiency.

Board Member David Gier said that, with many of these projects’ qualifying for reimbursement from the state, along with a healthy capital projects reserve, many of the items could be accomplished without affecting the tax levy.

Halsey will share the list with the building principals and solicit feedback from staff, to determine which projects merit priority attention.

In other business, the board:

– Accepted the resignation of part-time long-term substitute teacher Maria Oddo and appointed Ryan Bischof to the position.

– Approved advisors Heather Shean, student, and Jason Lyons, yearbook financial. Jonathan Feniello was approved as the boys junior varsity basketball coach.

– Following a lack of response to an internal search for a girls basketball coach, a job posting will be issued.

The school board will next meet at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 24 at the high school.

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