State Audit Criticizes Surpluses In Dunkirk Schools

The state Comptroller’s Office criticized the Dunkirk School District for its financial practices following a four-year audit.

The audit, released Thursday and available through the Comptroller’s website, reviewed Dunkirk’s finances from July 1, 2013, to May 25 of this year. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the district, which includes 2,000 students in six schools in Dunkirk, had “consistently overestimated appropriations by an average of $3.7 million.”

In addition, DiNapoli said three of the district’s reserves — which totaled $14.8 million — appeared to be over-funded. In 2013-14 and 2015-16, the district operated with surpluses while projects were financed, the comptroller said in a statement.

In recommendations, DiNapoli said the district should adopt a budget that “realistically reflect the district’s operating needs based on historical trends or other identified analyses.”

In addition, DiNapoli recommended a review of all reserves to determine if the amounts reserved are necessary and reasonable. Most notably, however, he said any surplus funds be used to finance one-time expenditures and reduce property taxes within the school district.

“In today’s fiscal climate, budget transparency and accountability for our local communities is a top priority,” DiNapoli said his statement on several school audits released Thursday. “By auditing municipal finances and operations, my office continues to provide taxpayers the assurance that their money is being spent appropriately and effectively.”

Other school districts reviewed by the Comptroller’s Office include the Fulton City School District in Oswego County; Perry Central School District in Wyoming County; and Sachem Central School District in Suffolk County.