2016-03-10 / Front Page

NYS Comptroller: Babylon Schools socked away too much in its budget lines over four years

The Babylon School District consistently overestimated appropriations in its annual budgets from 2011, through 2015, according to a New York State Comptroller’s report issued this week. The practice allowed the district to circumvent the four percent statutory limit on unrestricted fund balance, the report noted.

“The board consistently adopted budgets that overestimated appropriations in total by about $10 million or five percent from the 2011-12, through the 2014-15 fiscal years,” the report stated.

The majority of the overestimated expenditures were for employee benefits, teacher salaries and plant operations, which were inflated each of the four years reviewed.

In a response to the audit, Superintendent of Schools Linda J. Rozzi said the district was in negotiations with five of its six bargaining units over the time period of the audit and that the inflated estimates were to ensure the district would be able to meet any additional financial obligations it incurred if and when those contracts were settled.

“The settlement of any one of these agreements would potentially require increase expenditures in the respective year of the settlement,” she wrote. “Responsible budgeting requires that we be prepared to meet the unexpected or unanticipated needs.”

In its recommendation, the Comptrollers suggested that the board should use the surplus fund balance "to benefit the residents, including but not limited to establishing or increasing reserves; financing one-time expenditures or reducing property taxes."

Rozzi, who was not immediately available for comment, wrote to the Comptroller that the school district’s budgets resulted in property tax levies that were below the average for all Long Island school districts and that these budgets were approved by voters by wide margins.

“Responsible budgeting requires that we be prepared to meet the unexpected or unanticipated needs without compromising the instructional needs of our students,” her response noted. 

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