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Letter: School's surplus is 'prudent'

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office has

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office has released reports on 11 school districts on Long Island, detailing strengths and weaknesses that auditors found in financial operations within each school system. DiNapoli is shown during the New York Association of Towns Annual Meeting at the Hilton on Feb. 17, 2014. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

The story "School districts criticized for cash surpluses" [News, Oct. 14] reports that our district has overestimated expenditures by $33.9 million over five years. As we asserted to the state comptroller's office as it prepared its audit, this is a gross mischaracterization of our financial position.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has made it a point to criticize districts for taxing residents and then returning the money to them in the form of lower tax levies. This is what we and most other districts have lawfully done for decades. The comptroller's aggregation of this number is pointless and misrepresents our district's healthy budget practices.

We have rightly funded our reserves to create budgetary soundness, and we do not, in our opinion, hold excess surplus. Our district has $10.8 million in a variety of restricted reserves, and about $1.2 million in capital reserves. This is roughly half of the average for school districts in New York, as a percentage of reserves to the total budget.

We disagree with the comptroller's philosophy of local school budget management. But the context that matters to taxpayers is that our levy increase has been less than 2 percent for six consecutive years, with no reduction to programs, with enhancement of school facilities, and while moderately drawing on our reserves.

We believe we have been prudent in our planning and continue to use surplus funds wisely.

Julia Binger, Northport

Editor's note: The writer is president of the Northport-East Northport school board.


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