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Audits: 3 LI school districts need to improve financial practices

Three Long Island school districts — Locust Valley and Rockville Centre in Nassau County and William Floyd in Suffolk — should improve their financial management practices in certain areas, auditors with the state comptroller’s office said in separate reports released last week.

State monitors also found that the Deer Park district followed proper procedures and “ensured that bank reconciliations were properly prepared to safeguard district assets,” according to a separate audit of that system for July 2014 through December 2015, released Friday by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

In Locust Valley, district officials did not consistently enforce the purchasing policy’s requirements for obtaining and documenting verbal and written cost estimates before purchasing goods whose price exceeded policy thresholds, according to the audit, which covered July 2014 through December 2015.

Officials there also did not consistently follow written policies for obtaining competitive quotes, the report said. The audit recommended that the district maintain adequate supporting documentation for verbal and written quotes.

Locust Valley school officials, in their written response, disputed some findings of the report and requested that auditors remove at least three payments from the seven cited in the report, giving a detailed explanation of why those purchases should be exempt.

The district said it was grateful to the comptroller’s office for providing an additional way of ensuring compliance with purchasing procedures and said it had immediately made changes.

In Rockville Centre, auditors noted that the board and district officials could improve their management of the school lunch fund’s financial condition.

The report said district officials did not perform a cost-per-meal analysis and the district’s productivity level for meals per-labor-hour — the industry standard used to determine adequate levels of staffing — was below the industry average. It also questioned the district’s practice of paying for cafeteria employees’ health insurance and retirement system costs, averaging $41,500 annually, out of the general fund.

The report recommended that the district pay for the associated benefits of the cafeteria employees out of the school lunch fund and develop a plan to pay back the loans from the general fund. The report covered from July 2014 through April 2016 and noted there were 22 cafeteria employees.

In its response, the district questioned the auditors’ use of “industry standards,” saying it appeared to come from a small sample nationwide and did not take into account Rockville Centre’s unique lunch operation, which includes satellite programs in five elementary schools with different numbers of students.

The district said that paying for cafeteria employees’ benefits from the school lunch fund could mean higher prices for student lunches, which in turn might deter use of the program. Rockville Centre officials agreed to add a line in future budgets showing a transfer of those costs from the general fund to the school lunch fund, in order to have a more transparent financial practice.

The report on the William Floyd district found that officials did not adequately separate payroll duties or establish sufficient controls over the payroll process. Auditors also said the school system does not have adequate procedures to ensure that overtime gets prior approval, and district officials generally did not pre-approve employee overtime.

The audit, which covered from July 2014 through December 2015, found that no one independent of the payroll process had reviewed for accuracy the hourly rates or annual salaries entered by the payroll manager or had compared the payroll registers with payroll source documents, prior to processing, to ensure that payments were based on the actual hours or days worked.

In its response, William Floyd district officials said they had taken several steps to follow up on the audit’s recommendations, including a requirement for prior approval of overtime. Additionally, the district said, the superintendent always certifies payroll disbursements before they are made.

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