The Patchogue-Medford school district received a favorable review of its tentative 2015-16 school budget Tuesday from state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, who found that revenues are reasonable and the preliminary spending plan complies with the property-tax levy limit.
"The objective of the review was to provide an independent evaluation of the tentative budget," according to a letter dated March 6 from the comptroller to the district's school officials.
Auditors examined the tentative budget, salary schedules, debt payment schedules and other information submitted last month. Revisions were made last week.DataSchools under 'financial stress'
According to the review, the tentative 2015-16 budget totals $173,068,899, with $65,841,981 in estimated revenue and $103,563,276 from real property taxes. It includes $3,663,642 from the district's fund balance.
Auditors issued a caution regarding about $6.9 million in the district's general fund balance, or reserves, writing that "while we generally advise against the use of fund balance to finance operating expenditures, the district's actions are reasonable given the constraints imposed by the real property tax cap."
Continued use of the fund balance "will eventually lead to its depletion and a new revenue source will need to be identified to fund operating expenditures," the auditors wrote.
The comptroller's office said Tuesday that the review was routine. School officials could not be reached for comment.
The review noted that the district's tentative 2015-16 budget complies with the local tax-levy limit. Any district's proposed budget that exceeds its levy limit must by law get approval of 60 percent of voters in the May 19 budget vote, rather than a simple 50 percent majority.
The budget is tentative as districts statewide await word on how much financial aid they will receive from the state for 2015-16.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has faced widespread criticism for not yet naming a state aid figure, which in past years he has released along with his proposed budget early in the year. The governor has said only that the statewide increase could range from $370 million, or 1.7 percent, to as much as $1.1 billion, or 4.8 percent.
Last May, Patchogue-Medford voters approved a 2014-15 budget of $171,453,825, a 2.38 percent increase. That budget carried a tax levy of $100,682,131, a 0.07 percent decrease equal to the district's tax-cap limit.
However, because of a transportation-related proposition on the ballot that, if approved, could have raised the levy above the tax-cap limit, a 60 percent majority was required to pass the budget. The transportation proposition was rejected.