Manor School District Answers State Auditor's Report
By Jeanne Sager
LIVINGSTON MANOR January 30, 2007 The financial management of the Livingston Manor Central School District raised eyebrows on the state level, but the money is safe.
The Office of the State Comptroller completed its standard audit, releasing a breakdown this month questioning the district’s internal controls and payments to former superintendent Ken Gray and buildings and grounds head Don Nichols.
But current Superintendent Debra Lynker said she was buoyed by the remainder of the report in essence what it didn’t say.
“There was no fraud, no waste, no mismanagement,” she said. “It was an excellent report.”
The audit included district finances from as far back as July 2002 when Gray was still at the helm in Livingston Manor.
Auditors brought to light a payment of “as much as $1,026” on Gray’s behalf to cover travel expenses relating to a superintendent’s conference.
The comptrollers contended the payment flew in the face of a district policy enacted in 1994 when Gray’s contract was amended to include a $5,000 salary increase specifically to cover expenses such as those incurred by traveling on behalf of the district.
In other words travel expenses up to $5,000 were already covered in Gray’s salary. The auditors questioned why the district would then pay for this particular trip stating it was “contrary to the provisions of his contract.”
In a response from the district, Lynker noted that the payments were made based on a resolution by the Livingston Manor Board of Education.
Lynker said the board passed a resolution directing Gray to attend the New York State School Board Association Conference at district expense.
Records show a $104 payment to Gray for mileage and a district disbursement for his hotel room.
“Other records are unclear,” Lynker wrote to the comptroller’s office, “and as such such should not be stated here as a violation of contract.”
The auditors also made note of Nichols’ salary increase in August 2003 from a base of $60,000 per year to $75,000 per year.
The board of education’s resolution approved the new rate for the 2003-04 and 2004-05 school years.
Nichols continued to serve the district through January 2006 at the same rate which the auditors said was not actually approved by the board of education.
Lynker said essentially the board forgot to make another resolution, something she assured the comptroller’s office the district will take into account in the future.
Also in question was the district’s current payroll process.
With one clerk in charge of creating employee records, entering payroll data changes, maintaining time-attendance records, preparing payroll, disbursing paychecks and maintaining employee payroll files, the comptroller’s office determined there is room for mistakes.
They recommended a segregation of duties to prevent a district employee from circumventing district policy by adding people to the payroll.
Lynker clarified the payroll clerk’s duties, stating the auditors’ description was not quite accurate.
The clerk does not maintain employee files, she said, and cannot make any adjustments to employee records or payroll without a “properly executed extract of the board of education’s action.”
Lynker said she as superintendent is also responsible for reviewing and certifying the entire payroll.
The district has agreed to make certain changes, including periodic payroll audits to ensure employees sign for their paychecks.
The board of education will also be reviewing its procedures in relation to payment to members of the district’s administrative staff.
Lynker called the auditors “fair and thorough” in their review.
Their complaints contain little that needs to be rectified, she said, which is a good sign for the district.