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Patchogue-Medford schools get good marks in state audit

Patchogue-Medford School District Superintendent Michael J. Hynes stands

Patchogue-Medford School District Superintendent Michael J. Hynes stands in his office in Patchogue on Sept. 1, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s office has released a favorable report for the Patchogue-Medford school district, finding that its projections for the proposed 2016-17 budget are “reasonable” and in line with the system’s expected property-tax levy limit.

The review, dated March 11, gave the projected budget for next year as $177,333,831.

The projected tax-levy increase is 2.4 percent, according to Patchogue-Medford superintendent Michael J. Hynes and separate figures recently released by the comptroller’s office. That percentage is equal to the maximum allowable increase expected for the system under the cap law, according to the comptroller.

The figures for the proposed budget, tax-levy increase and cap limit are subject to revision, depending upon the amount of state financial aid that districts receive when the legislature approves the state budget. That is supposed to occur April 1.

DiNapoli’s office often has issued recommendations for improvement in audits of various districts. It did not have to do so in this report.

Hynes noted the hard work of staff and local board members in the district, which has 7,741 students in 11 schools.

“Over the past several years, our board of education and business office have been working diligently to be fiscally responsible and produce school budgets that support the best interests of all of our students,” Hynes said in a statement Tuesday. “We always strive to improve internal controls and operate at a very high caliber. We are proud to have no recommendations in this budget review letter.”

Investigators with the comptroller’s office looked at the tentative budget, salary schedules, debt payment schedules and other pertinent information.

“We identified and examined significant estimated revenues and expenditures for reasonableness with emphasis on significant and/or unrealistic increases or decreases,” the report said. “We analyzed, verified and/or corroborated trend data and estimates, where appropriate.”

Auditors also reviewed supporting documentation to determine the nature of the items and to assess whether the estimate was realistic and reasonable.

They evaluated the amount appropriated in the tentative budget to be used as a “rainy day” financing source to determine if that reserve fund’s balance was available and sufficient for that purpose. The fund balance of more than $2.3 million for the 2016-17 budget is “reasonable,” auditors said, but cautioned district officials to be aware that it eventually could be depleted.

The Patchogue-Medford district had issued debt totaling $6 million to liquidate the accumulated deficit in the system’s general fund as of June 30, 2006.

Local finance law requires that all local governments authorized to issue obligations to fund operating deficits must submit their tentative budgets for the next fiscal year to the state comptroller for review while the deficit obligations are outstanding.

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