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Letter: School reserve funds are far too high

People turn out to vote on Tuesday, May

People turn out to vote on Tuesday, May 19, 2015, on the school board, budget and issues at the Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School in Hempstead. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp


Your recent news story and editorial concerning the state audit of East Meadow schools and the overfunded reserves is not an isolated situation [“Schools must budget smarter,” Editorial, March 2].

In Plainview schools, reserve funds totaled $18.4 million from 2009-10 through 2013-14, according to an audit by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. The school district experienced operating surpluses in each of those five fiscal years, and so it didn’t need any of the $18.4 million.

According to the website of the state Education Department, reserves in three funds in 2007-08 totaled $5.4 million. In the 2015-16 school year, these reserves equaled $40.3 million. This is greater than a sevenfold increase in reserves in eight years.

The comptroller’s audit said, “We do not believe that the district requires this degree of financial cushion to fund unpredictable contingency placements.”

Excess reserves are taking place, according to the comptroller, in many districts. In May 2013, Long Island’s school districts had a combined total of more than $2.1 billion in reserves, according to Newsday.

Taxpayers should demand written, accurate accounting of reserve fund activities before voting on school budgets. Why isn’t much of this money being returned to taxpayers or used to enhance educational programs? Or both?

Steve Boder, Plainview

Editor’s note: The writer is a former member of the Middle Country school board.