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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, June 7, 2007

State audit shows no wrong-doing at BKW

By Tyler Schuling

BERNE — A June 4 report by the state comptroller’s office shows no wrongdoing or mismanagement by Berne-Knox-Westerlo School District administrators or board members.

The Office of the New York State Comptroller audited BKW’s internal controls over capital assets from July 1, 2005 to Aug. 15, 2006, as part of a state-wide initiative to monitor public schools after gross fraud and embezzlement was discovered on Long Island.

The BKW audit showed no findings of irresponsibility or wrongdoing in regard to fiscal management, said BKW Superintendent Steven Schrade. "Overall, it was almost a totally clean audit," he said.

Schrade said there were some "small misunderstandings."

In its report, the comptroller’s office says, "As a result of weak controls, District officials could not locate 11 of 38 assets that we tested, which were valued at over $11,000." According to the comptroller’s office, auditors could not locate computers, VCRs, and televisions.

BKW Business Administrator David Weiser responded, saying the 11 items were not readily found because the audit was conducted during summer, when contents of classrooms are emptied and moved to hallways and other classrooms to clean all floors.

Schrade said summer cleaning was the "main issue," which made it difficult to locate the items quickly.

Seven items had been found since the audit, Weiser wrote. While moving equipment out of classrooms, some labeling tags had fallen off, and one item was out of the district to be repaired, he wrote.

Weiser said the value of the 11 items as determined by the comptroller’s office is inaccurate due to depreciation. The other four of the 11 items, Weiser wrote, were discarded and valued at $0. "The total value of these [seven] found items is approximately $800"," he wrote.

Schrade said numbers for depreciation values "came directly from the comptroller’s office," adding that items, such as televisions, depreciate after they are owned for a certain length of time.

The comptroller’s office responded, saying, "A depreciated book value serves an accounting and/or reporting function and is not relevant to the accountability of District assets."

The company with which BKW had contracted for its inventory program was in the process of updating its software, and BKW’s 2005-06 inventory hadn’t yet been completed at the time of the audit, Schrade said.

The comptroller’s office recommends someone "independent of the asset record-keeping" perform inventory counts.

"There’s no new position or stipend being created," Schrade said. Weiser will oversee all inventory additions and deletions, he said. If a computer, television, or VCR is moved, staff will fill out a form, to be given to Adrian Wright, who is in charge of inventory counts, and also fill out a form, which will be given to Weiser, he said.

"This is the bureaucracy that’s being imposed on us, as well as other school districts," Schrade said.

If any equipment is moved from one classroom to another, it has to be reported, Schrade said. Schrade was skeptical about a school’s ability to comply with added measures recommended by the comptroller’s office. Being able to know where each computer, television, and VCR is located is "nearly impossible," he said, adding that televisions are on rolling carts and often moved around the schools throughout the day. When moving equipment, staff will not be required to fill out forms on a daily basis to Wright and Weiser. "That’s just too much," Schrade said of monitoring assets.

"We feel our employees are trustworthy," Schrade said. BKW district administrators will "do our best to comply with the comptroller’s office," he said.

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