PLATTSBURGH — A state audit of the Clinton-Essex-Warren-Washington Board of Educational Services uncovered several discrepancies, including funds “used for purposes that were not statutorily authorized.”

The audit, which covered the 2007-08 fiscal year, was performed by the State Comptroller’s Office.



RESERVE FUND

One audit criticism was that the Employee Benefit Accrued Liability Reserve had $329,487 more than necessary to meet its obligations.

The extra money was used, according to Rachel Rissetto, human-resource director for Champlain Valley Educational Services, to level the costs in other areas of the BOCES program.

Although it seemed that the fund had much more money in it than was necessary, Rissetto said, an audit’s “snapshot in time” can be misleading.

“We utilized it (the money) across the program,” she said. While funds such as these may have been used for a “statutorily unauthorized purpose,” this only means there is no provision in general municipal law that allows for the funds from the reserves to be used for purposes other than what they were created for.

The money would have been stranded had it not been used, CVES Treasurer Christine Myers said.

Rather than ask the district for more money to pay for influxes in expenses, such as retiree health benefits, BOCES felt it would be prudent to use the reserve funds to help offset costs.

“We’re not going to do that anymore,” Myers said, based on the audit recommendation.



SALARIES

To cut costs, CVES decided to no longer allow employees to be paid for unused sick time, except for those who are five years or closer to retirement.

Employees were given the option to have either the dollar amount of what they were owed or to receive a salary adjustment.

The audit pointed out that three employees had salary miscalculations, causing them to be underpaid $5,514 for the 2007-08 fiscal year. They would have been paid $6,647 less than required in 2008-09 had the audit not addressed the problem.

“We gave people an option,” Myers said, and the three individuals in question were given time to make their decision.

However, they did not do so. As a result, when the Comptroller’s Office did the audit, it showed those individuals as being underpaid.

The employees were given an extension of time, she said, and eventually made their decisions.

After receiving a raise, their salaries were recalculated.



COMP TIME

Another problem cited in the audit was that two Business Office employees and one Personnel Office worker “earned and used compensatory leave time, even though their employment contracts did not contain a provision to do so.”

“They have the ability to flex their time,” Rissetto explained.

While it may seem like it is not a part of their contract to receive compensatory leave, it is because the time is being recorded as flex time, she said.

This happens when employees work more than their regularly scheduled hours and so are able to take time off.

“It’s not that they don’t have the ability to do it,” she said, but the time was being recorded incorrectly.



RECORD KEEPING

Record-keeping was also scrutinized, and all six BOCES departments failed to submit documentation that would verify all money was accounted for.

In one instance, the Cosmetology Department had destroyed such records.

In addition, BOCES cash receipts totaling $6,155 were not deposited into the bank until 12 days or more from the date the funds were received, the report stated.

Myers said the reason for the poor record-keeping and mishandling of cash receipts can be attributed to the fact these programs, such as cosmetology, were never asked to produce records of this kind until required to do so by the auditors.

The programs at BOCES often require students to handle the sales and revenue of their projects.

For example, students in the food program would be expected to keep records of their sales and other transactions as if they were in a real business.

When the most recent records were compared, some errors made by students were not noted on any kind of error log, leaving discrepancies.

Records are now being kept.



SIGNATURE

The audit said the payroll clerk and accountant erred when they affixed the treasurer’s signature to payroll and accounts-payable checks without her direct oversight.

Myers said she did have knowledge of the checks being made and that the problem involved the way the office workers logged on to these programs.

The auditors want the treasurer to scrutinize each check that is printed out.

“That’s what we do now,” Myers said.

BOCES officials were satisfied with the recommendations made in the State Comptroller’s audit.

All of the discrepancies were addressed by BOCES, many before the audit was released, Myers said.

“We were really happy about how the audit turned out.”

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