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David W. Ziskin

Superintendent of Schools

25 High Street

Fort Plain, NY 13339





Fort Plain school leaders detail plans for surplus fund balance

A recent audit by The Office of the State Comptroller found that Fort Plain Central School District has been holding more money in fund balance than is allowed by law. In response to the audit findings, the district cited a number of factors that led to the surplus and provided plans for how those funds will be allocated going forward.

The audit covered the period between July 1, 2007 and Jan. 31, 2012.
Real Property Tax Law allows a district to retain up to 4 percent of the ensuing year’s budget as unassigned fund balance. Fund balance in excess of that amount must either be used to fund a portion of the next year’s appropriations, thereby reducing the tax levy, or to fund legally established reserves.

Currently, the district is holding $1,334,000 in fund balance, which is about $590,000 (or 7 percent) above the 4 percent limit. Some of the adjustments the district plans to make are: Move funds from its Retirement Contribution Reserve to the Employee Benefit Accrued Liability Reserve (EBALR); and Adjust the Unemployment Reserve.

Superintendent Douglas C. Burton said a number of factors led to an unexpected surplus during the 2011-12 fiscal year including:

  • A warm winter which resulted in savings on snow removal, fuel and heating costs, and overtime salaries for snow crews;

  • Further streamlining in the transportation department;

  • Receiving $50,000 for the one-time sale of buses;

  • A larger refund for BOCES services than expected; and

  • Receiving a one-time infusion of federal money to save teacher positions that moved certain expenses out of the general and into the special aid fund.

In a letter to the comptroller’s office, Mr. Burton said that the district has done everything it can to use taxpayer funds appropriately while securing a sound educational program for students. He said the district’s actions have been “guided by long-range plans that have taken into account previous and massive state aid cuts, the loss of significant amounts of temporary federal funds and our desire to lower our tax rate to assist resident of this below average wealth school district.”

He also said the audit clearly reveals a planned trend in the district’s progress toward tighter budgeting and the use of appropriated fund balance to relieve the local tax burden.

In one of the steps described in the letter to use the surplus, Mr. Burton said the money transferred to fund the EBALR would be used to cover projected large increases in retirement expenses in future years, thus helping the district stay within the 2 percent tax levy cap.

To read more about the district’s plan, please go to the audit report click here.

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