BREAKING NEWS: New Rochelle Board of Education Release Full Report from Independent Auditor

Written By: Robert Cox

DBD86ECC-DBAD-4942-B038-4404A8107672.jpgFor the first time ever, the New Rochelle Board of Education has released a full copy of the Internal Auditors Report.

The highlights of the report are that the revenues so far his year are about $217.2mm and expenditures are $219.8mm. Expenditures have exceeded Revenue by $2.6mm. The fund balance was $18.3mm at the beginning of the year; it has been reduced by $2.6mm and currently stands at $15.6mm. Of the remaining $15.6mm, most of it has been designated for refunding tax certioraris ($6.1mm) and reducing the impact on raising the property tax ($3.9mm), leaving just $5.0 in undesignated funds. Under New York State law, the district can keep no more than 4% of the total budget in reserve which comes out to be roughly $9mm so the reserve is currently about half the legal limit.

We are going to circulate the report (links below) and ask readers who are interested to go through it and provide any feedback. A few of us are going to try to get together in the coming days and hope to have a more detailed analysis ready before the beginning of the upcoming budget cycle.

There is one main document and 2 smaller ones:

CSNDR Auditor Report (June 30, 2009)

Financial Statement and Supplementary Information (PDF, 104 pages)

Extraclassroom Activity Funds (PDF, 6 pages)

Internal Control Matters Identified in the Audit (PDF, 9 pages)

The report, prepared by accountants at O’Connor Davies Munns & Dobbins, was provided to me today by the District Clerk. I want to thank the folks up at the UPS Store in Wykagyl helping me get these documents online.

I suppose if we do not toot our own horn no one will but I believe that our championing the cause of greater transparency and openness by our local government played no small part in this significant change in policy. Whether it did or not, kudos to the school board and especially BoE President Sara Richmond for authorizing the release of information that for the first time provides residents access to information critical to understanding soon-to-be-released 2010-11 school budget which will be voted on this coming May. Safe to say the release of this report represents a a sea change in district policy and is VERY welcome.

7 thoughts on “BREAKING NEWS: New Rochelle Board of Education Release Full Report from Independent Auditor”

  1. audit report
    i appreciate the service providing the Audit report on New Rochelle Talk of the Sound. As I indicated to a member of the school board, Audit Reports generally are the baseline requirements by the State to homeowners such as Coopertive Shareholders; they get little else as a rule and, while this is a good start, an Audit Report does no analysis, provides no source documents, and unless there is a violation of professional process, it is only a descriptive analysis. That said, still glad to read it.

    You cannot really comment specifically on items, but if you have seen enough of these at this level or larger, some things do engage your imagination.

    1. there is surely a need for givebacks by the union. These must be vigorously done in a bargaining framework. The percent of program expenses, especially instructional expenses are huge. Our school board must adopt the example being set by other districts, such as Mamaroneck and cut staff and programs as well as administrative overhead.

    2. frankly, our school administration should be ashamed of themselves. they stand out like sore thumbs when compared to other districts where board and administrative REALLY feels the pain of the voter. Take salary cuts, stop planned exempt increase, and stop listening to FUSE saying they are trading off salary increases for benefits givebacks. Least a parent, taxpayer, voter etc can do is to understand what is in the bargained contract. The opportunities for salary increases are well in excess of bargained annual increases. For example, do you know what a “step increase” is.

    3. the budget logic remains an “expectation budget” — you know, give us federal and state money for our kids are at risk otherwise. This is disgraceful — they are at risk through terrible examples set by the district in terms of using these excessive funding sources to increase gradualtion rates, regents scholars, and the like. I imagine they are once again waiting for the cow to moo and give that entitlement milk.

    4. the budget scares me at face value in a number of areas — look out for the capital funds area — it seems underfunded or more correctly, not long ranged planned — changes seem to be made more by short term bond issues and I am not surprised as Organisciak is totally in the dark about how to plan — remember his home boy BOCES initiative — demographic study.

    I will close with this except to say perhaps Bob Cox would think about someone, perhaps even me, breaking down the FUSE Contract to indicate just what it entails. I think this is well within the boundary of transparency. Let’s see what bloggers and others say.

    Warren Gross

  2. Separate and Unequal?
    Maybe I am reading this report wrong but the first thing that jumped out at me was the disparity in funds for the Extraclassroom Activities in Isaac Young and Albert Leonard.
    First some examples from the report:
    Isaac Young Gym Uniforms:

    Albert Leonard Gym Suits (What is a gym suit?):

    Isaac Young JR Honor Society:

    Albert Leonard JR Honor Society:

    Isaac Young Yearbook

    Albert Leonard Yearbook:

    Isaac Young Drama:

    Albert Leonard Drama:

    Total Extracurricular Funds Isaac Youg:

    Total Extracurricular Funds Albert Leonard:

    Now I am not an actuary and don’t know how these extracurricular activities are funded, but there clearly is a huge problem with the disparity between the 2 Middle Schools in New Rochelle if one spends over $188,000 a year in Activities and the other only 54,444.
    Both schools roughly have the same amount of students, why is there over $14,000 more spent on the yearbook for Albert Leonard than Isaac??
    Are the actors at Albert Leonard so great that they rate over $6,000 in greater expenditures?

    I can’t say if this is a fault with the school administration, school board, or whoever, but it is one of the most glaring examples to prove that the South End schools get the short end of the stick. Is this because the majority of Board members send or have sent their children to Albert Leonard?

    Albert Leonard spent $130,000 more than Isaac Young on extracurricular activities for their students.

    1. Disparity = Diversity
      This is an issue that I have brought up for many years. There has been and there is an inequity in our middle schools that has much to do with distribution of resources and leadership. There are disparities in what I call “ganas”, the desire to succeed; the desire to achieve greatness. Parents are not welcomed in one school; one school is run as a secured fortress where security guards maintain order by instilling fear and by behaving like correction officers; one school frowns upon children who wish to be in honors and AP classes: one school refuses to ackowledge that bullies and gangs exist in their schools; one school had a different grading policy; in one school newly tenured teachers leave immediately; one school refuses to address poor performing incompetent teachers. To speak out or to sugest changge is to be considered a pariah. There are more examples. I have come to believe that many children are not prepared well at one school and they pay the price when they get to NRHS. Does the admnistration know about this? Does anyone care? Oh, I forget, we are southenders or westenders. We don’t vote. We are invisible. No one will notice. Yes, we are a diverse community; right Mr. Mayor? Is there a conspiracy to revive the auction block?

      1. Your comparisons
        Very well done Martin Sanchez. I can speak from experience on this topic. Ganas covers it nicely. You might include a few other points; one school has a reasonably professional administration staff, the other is larded with patronage and incompetency. One school tolerates some degree of open exchange, the other squelches any attempt on the part of their best and brightest to speak up and make change.

        I am getting the impression that you were not heard adequately by your former board colleagues. I am also getting the impression that Sara Richmond is a positive force for change. You may be right; early signs are promising and she appears open minded and respectful of the community. So, from your lips to God’s ears Martin. I have met and taught many fine youngsters from lower New Roc; young Hispanics, African Americans and white — excellence knows no color or creed and these kids have a tough row to hoe to compete in this City. And, there are enough good and well intentioned teachers, young and not so young, who are hoping for leadership and positive change.

        Keept up your community advocacy — that is what wins in the end as we have seen nationally.

        Warren Gross

    2. Does the PTA fund these programs?
      Maybe the Albert Leonard PTA funds these programs. Not sure, but possible.

  3. audit report
    good job Bob — you and Greg Maker of Sound Shore are the first newsbreakers on this. Suggest readers take adbvantage of this hyperlink and find out what is specifically in this report. It will have a real effect on all taxpayers in the near term; the reserve fund has been pretty much tapped into and certiorari will continue to be something significant in the expense base. Bob Cox has frequently mentioned the issues around what the District deems our assessed value position city wide and what the real shortfall is based on more reliable data.

    Look the government will likely bail out cities, but we need the equivalent of a “District Marshall Plan” to get our decision makers (include the city on this) much more skilled on proper financial management and forecasting and much less reliant on state funding. It is time to think of the citizen’s contribution to the school district budget (property taxes around 67%, etc.). This has to mean more determined collective bargaining, more willingness to meet with other cities and towns to share resources and combat unfunded state mandates, freezing increases, letting go of inefficient exempt management staff, etc…..

    I don’t like the scent of what our capital expense budget will look like once the city and district figure out that the voodoo behind Organisciak’s so called “demographic study” is as reliable as a hungry fox in a henhouse.

    you, me, every reader has plenty of information at this point on all of this and Bob is placing the icing on the cake. Shortly, I am going to submit some findings to Bob on the Taylor Law which governs the collective bargaining relationship between FUSE (teachers union) and managment (district board and senior team). In simplest terms, neither Management or Employees can lock out or strike. They have to reach agreement or at some point, submit to arbitration.

    I am only saying this little now to let you know that as the people who vote for the board, recognize that they work for you (electorate) and that they can bargain on issues such as contributions to pension or welfare plans, etc.) And, to be fair, they can freeze their own salaries or unlike what Organisiciak did — and this was unlike many of his peers running other districts in Westchester — he could have waived his 2009/10 salary increase and/or took a voluntary salary cut.

    to quote the guy at MSBC, it is really time to play hardball. No more district run by a consortium of labor, board, and city —- how about a little tea party of sorts — again, as I have said so often, you get the government you deserve.

    Warren Gross

  4. Transparency is a Good Thing
    Thank you Sara for working towards this end. Certainly miles ahead from prior years. Please let’s keep moving in this direction. Lets keep the momentum by engaging new people who are visionaries and courageous enough to join BOE.

    Martin Sanchez

Comments are closed.