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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 13, 2011

GCSD responds to auditor’s concerns

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — A recent audit assessing financial risks for the Guilderland School District noted problems in seven areas, to which the district has responded.

Joseph Heroux, a certified public accountant and internal auditor for Questar III, prepared the report; it’s required by the state in legislation passed in 2005 after horrendous examples of fraud came to light on Long Island. The report was received by the school board at its Jan. 4 meeting.

Recommendations were made in these seven areas with the following responses from the district:

Cash: Heroux found that the district’s bank had imposed a limit on the amount to be transferred by wire but recommended that the school board approve a maximum amount.

The district responded that it will enact a policy establishing a maximum amount that can be transferred, with anything above that being authorized by the assistant superintendent for business.

Accounts payable: The report says the district limits any one person from making changes to the vendor master file since it requires permission to be granted before changes are made. However, the auditor recommended that someone periodically review the vendor name change report.

The district responded that the claims auditor, who is independent of any accounting functions, reviews changes to the vendor master file; she then reports to the board’s audit committee.

Property: The audit says the board should review the capitalization policy to define the amount to be used to capitalize fixed asset purchasers, and that the district’s practice should match its policy.

The district responded that it will communicate with its casualty insurance provider to segregate property additions as “inventory” items and “capital” items.

Payroll: Heroux says that the district should make a documented review of the quarterly and annual payroll tax filings, and prepare a quarterly review with tax forms. Also, he says, someone should periodically review the payroll master file change report, which should be printed out, signed, and filed.

The claims auditor now reviews additions and deletions to the master file and reports to the audit committee.

Extraclassroom activity funds: The audit recommends transferring responsibility for extra-classroom activity funds to a parent-teacher organization and also says there should be documented reviews of the monthly bank reconciliations. Clubs should have charters, the audit says and ticket reconciliation is needed.

Elementary school classroom accounts are audited by the business office, the district says, and the business office now reviews bank statements. Also, the district held two presentations for club advisors, outlining state requirements; the business office will audit twice a year for compliance.

Medicaid revenue: “Given today’s economic environment and the uncertainty surrounding state aid,” Heroux wrote, “the district should maximize all potential revenue sources; this includes Medicaid.” He recommends reviewing special-education services to see if Medicaid can be billed.

The district responded that it uses an outside agent who works with several school districts to maximize Medicaid revenue, and it will review those revenues with the committee on special education to insure the most money is obtained.

Financial reporting: Finally, Heroux wrote that the district had accepted a two-year deficiency in financial reporting, which it should correct.

“The district demonstrated an understanding of the financial statements,” it responded, “and did not receive this comment from the external auditor this year.”

Other business

In other business, the board:

—         Voted unanimously to discontinue use of the EthicsPoint Fraud and Abuse Hotline; the rate was going up to $2,310 for the year. Sanders said only four complaints — on residency, free- and reduced-price lunches, and overseas phone calls — had been received and none turned out to be fraud. He noted district residents could use the hotline run by the state comptroller’s office for free.

“It wasn’t like we’re trying to close the door,” agreed board member Judy Slack;

— Authorized payment in advance of audit of claims for public utility services, postage, freight, and express charges.

“We want to make sure we don’t pre-pay bills that weren’t reviewed,” said board President Richard Weisz. Assistant superintendent for Business Neil Sanders responded that the pre-paid bills would still be audited; he said the change was recommended by the State Comptroller’s Office;

— Approved six change orders for the nearly complete $27 million building project. Sanders said, with renovations, “We found more surprises than we would have with new construction.” He also said about $340,000 in funds remain;

— Agreed to have several members — Catherine Barber, Colleen O’Connell, and Judy Slack — meet with trustees of the Guilderland Public Library on Jan. 25;

— Heard from Wiles that Farnsworth Middle School has been selected for a site visit by the New York State Middle School Association Schools to Watch program, which she termed “a tremendous honor,” since the chosen schools serve as models. The site visit is scheduled for Feb. 3 and 4;

— Accepted a bid for a tractor-trailer load — 840 cases — of paper from Liberty Paper for $21,352.80, the lowest of six bids. Sanders said the district continues to solicit bids on recycled paper, but it costs more;

— Accepted a donated cello from Mr. and Mrs. Carl Patka;

— Adopted a policy on student records, and reviewed policies with small changes on public complaints, complaints about policies, complaints about curricula, public use of school buildings and grounds, public conduct on school property, smoking on school premises, and relations with non-public schools;

— Heard from Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Demian Singleton that the State Education Department selected the district’s Learn and Service America program to receive additional funding — $5,000 more than the initial $18,293. The added funds will expand the service learning summer program and organic garden, led by Alan Fiero, Timothy Fry, and Jennifer Ford;

— Learned that Fiero, a teacher at Farnsworth Middle School, was awarded the Kendall Hunt grant of $200 and a flip camera for his answer to the question, “What new technology would you like to use to improve your students’ math and science skills?”

Fiero answered that his students would collaborate with researchers from The Nature Conservancy to raise the endangered Karner blue butterfly, and would use web cams, e-mail, and digital photography to communicate;

— Learned that three Guilderland High School students — singer Josh Palagyi and instrumentalists Gregory Barber and Paul Travers — are among 700 from the Eastern Division states invited to participate in the All-Eastern Honor Ensembles at the 2011 MENC (which stands or the Music Educators National Conference, as the National Association for Music Education was known from 1934 until 1998) to be held in Baltimore this spring;

— Heard that three Guilderland seniors — Dominic Litz, Amber Ducharme, and Kyra Malamood — won New York State Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (NYS AHPERD) Secondary Leadership Awards;

 — Learned that Farnsworth students did well on the American Mathematical Competition test. Seventh-grader Bill Dong scored a perfect 25 out of 25 and won a National Distinction Award for being in the top 1 percent of students. William Wang, also a seventh-grader, scored 24 and also earned a National Distinction Award.

The average score for seventh-graders was 14.8 and for eighth-graders was 15.6 out of 25 questions.

Three other Farnsworth students scored 17 or higher and were in the top 5 percent: Alicia Chen, Vivian Dai, and Markos Abebe.

Other students who participated included: Aviral Panday, Edward Yu, Michelle Yu, Salil Chaudry, Sean Hourihan, Elena Maateata, William Pan, Eric Pasquini, Amir Rastegar, Michael Zhu, Saurav Kadatane, and Rishi Dandu; and

— Went into an executive session to discuss negotiations with the Guilderland Employees’ Association and to talk about what the agenda termed “personnel issue.”

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