Red Hook Central Schools

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District Response to Comptroller's June 2016 Report & Media Coverage

District Response to Comptroller's Report & Media Coverage
 
Dear Community Member: 
 
I have observed many misleading portrayals of people and organizations over my tenure as Superintendent. The Red Hook Central School District has recently been the target of both a misleading New York State Comptroller’s Report and a related media report.  
 
Here are the facts:
 
The June 2016 Comptroller’s Report outlined four recommendations for future budgeting. 
 
Recommendation #1: Adopt budgets with reasonable estimated projections, using budget-to-actual-trend analysis to project needs.  
Our Response: We provide monthly reports on actual expenditures (YTD) to the Board of Education. During our annual budget development process, District leaders review each budget line and reserve amounts for reasonableness. We regularly make conservative estimates given the unpredictability of state funding and the likelihood of unexpected expenses.  
 
Recommendation #2Discontinue the practice of adopting budgets that result in the appropriation of unrestricted fund balance that is not actually needed to fund district operations.  
Our response: We maintain only the allowable amount of unrestricted fund balance for emergencies. The Comptroller has taken the unusual position that unused contingency funds should be included in an unrestricted fund balance calculation. We believe this approach is wholly inappropriate and would likely lead to program reductions and wild fluctuations in the tax levy.
 
Recommendation #3Develop a plan to use the surplus fund balance identified in this report in a manner that benefits district residents. Such uses could include: using surplus funds as a financing source, funding one-time expenditures, funding needed reserves, reducing District property taxes.
Our response: We use our surplus fund balances to the benefit of district residents and students. We routinely apply any surplus funding to reduce taxes, make one-time purchases, and fund reserves.
 
Recommendation #4Review reserves to determine if the amounts reserved are justified, necessary, and reasonable. To the extent they are not, reserves should be properly reduced.
Our response: We review for reasonableness every year. And, in the absence of a predictable fiscal environment, it would be irresponsible of District leadership to reduce reserves unnecessarily and compromise our ability to adjust for unexpected events.
 
While we welcome the Comptroller’s opinion, I am obligated to remind community members that it is only an opinion. I believe our students and taxpayers have benefitted from our conservative approach to budgeting. This approach has allowed the District to maintain program opportunities for students, adjust for unpredictable expenses, and avoid wild fluctuations in the tax levy.  
 
If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at pfinch@rhcsd.org or our Business Official, Bruce Martin, at bmartin@rhcsd.org.
 
Regards,
 
Paul Finch, Superintendent
 
 
 
 
 
 



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