The Ramapo school district has more than $16.3 million in excess funds that could be used to benefit taxpayers by paying one-time expenditures, funding necessary reserves, reducing debt and/or reducing the tax levy, according to an audit released today by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. State auditors examined the district’s fund balance and payroll for the period July 1, 2011 to Jan. 14, 2013.
The excess balance is roughly 13 percent of the following year’s budget, much higher than the 4 percent statutory limit for school districts, it said. The Ramapo school district got around that by “inappropriately encumbering” about $8.7 million in purchase orders and tax certioraris for the 2012 fiscal year. The district also had $2.3 million in excess funds in unemployment and insurance reserves, according to the audit.
The district cannot set aside money in a tax certiorari reserve fund in one fiscal year to finance judgments and claims arising from the tax rolls of prior fiscal years, the audit said. Ramapo, however, encumbered $7.7 million for that purpose. The district had $1.04 million in outdated purchase orders, it said.
The state also found fault with the pay rate for nine of the 40 workers whose files were reviewed. They started employment at steps higher than the entry level, costing about $95,000 more a year than if they had started at the entry level.
Ramapo school district officials disputed all of the audit’s findings and provided auditors will all the information requested to correct inaccurate and misleading conclusions in the report. They said DiNapoli’s office ignored them.
“The audit report contains numerous subjective conclusions and statements that are not based upon objective facts and, therefore, are inaccurate and inflammatory,” Superintendent Douglas Adams wrote.
Ramapo school district officials told state auditors the workers were paid at higher levels because of degree completion, work experience, difficulty of academic curriculum and scarcity of a particular skill needed by the district. However, they were unable to to provide any documentation supporting why those nine employees received a higher initial salary.
The district disputes the state’s findings on purchase orders. The district issued payment or closed all of the $1 million in purchase orders mentioned in the report, Adams wrote.
“The District would like to reiterate that the Comptroller’s office four-month examination, found no material internal control weaknesses, no fraud, no theft, no abuse of funds, no illegal activities, and no professional misconduct,” Adams wrote. “The Comptroller’s Office findings represent a difference of opinion on the definition of ‘reasonable’ and where reserves are reported on the balance sheet.”
(File photo of Superintendent Douglas Adams.)