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Comptroller’s report praises Liberty for fiscal responsibility

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli recently released a report commending the Liberty Central School District and its board of education for installing sound financial checks and balances for transactions made during the 2014-2015 school year.

“District officials and the board have taken a more proactive role in effectively managing its financial operations. This includes adopting realistic budgets and reviewing expenditures for cost savings where possible,” according to the 12-page audit released by DiNapoli’s office on April 1.

The audit examined transactions made between July 1, 2014 and Nov. 30, 2015 and referred back as far as July 1, 2012 to gauge the consistency of the district’s financial operations.

The report commended Liberty for its sensible fiscal management, noting that the district consistently uses its budget surpluses to fund reserves, plan for long-term projects and minimize the need for significant property tax increases.

The report noted that that although the unemployment insurance and retirement contribution reserves were over funded by $1.6 million, the district plans to transfer the excess to the capital reserve to help fund future capital projects.

In its recommendations to the district, the comptroller’s office suggested that officials closely monitor the profitability of its recent participation in the National School Lunch Program Community Eligibility Provision, a program that allows the district to serve free breakfast and lunch to all students and be reimbursed using a formula of the percentage of students who are eligible for free meals.

While the district’s involvement in the free breakfast and lunch program has increased its federal aid, the report noted that it is too early to determine whether it is cost-effective.

District officials said they agree with the findings and thanked state officials without disputing any elements in the report.

“Liberty Central School District appreciates how you have commended district officials for their ‘prudent fiscal management’ and will continue to closely monitor fund balance, reserves, property taxes and expenditures to consistently maintain financial stability,” Superintendent Dr. William Silver wrote in the district’s response, dated March 23 and included in the final report. “Additionally, officials will continue to monitor the School Lunch Program and the cost effectiveness of the Community Eligibility Program.”

As district officials and the board of education continue to develop the 2016-17 proposed budget, they will hold tight to their “do more with less” philosophy with the goal of ensuring that students get the best education possible without exceeding the district’s tax levy limit.

Residents can follow the budget development process by visiting www.libertyk12.org/budget or by attending an upcoming board of education meeting. Meetings are typically held on the second and fourth Tuesday each month at 7 p.m. During the school year, meetings are held in the library/media center at Liberty High School.

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