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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, November 13, 2008

Audit concludes BKW is financially sound

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — The handling of finance by the Berne-Knox-Westerlo school district is basically sound, according to auditor Neal LaMere of West and Company. On Oct. 27, LaMere presented the board with a summary of his findings in an audit of the district’s internal controls.

In the wake of an embezzlement case at a Long Island school district, the state adopted regulations to provide checks and balances with school finances. These regulations require an annual external audit of public schools across the state, presented locally at a public meeting.

“I believe it’s satisfactory,” Schrade told The Enterprise. “There were no surprises as far as we’re concerned,” he said.

There were, however, two deficiencies that the auditor discovered in the district's internal controls. One was insufficient oversight of the district's financial statement preparation process.

“I believe [LaMere’s] thinking is that the district should have a [certified public accountant] on staff,” said BKW’s business administrator, Timothy Holmes. “Since we don't have those kinds of qualifications, we should have some special training to prepare and understand financial statements, which we're going to get. The external auditor also says this is typical, and that the state is now questioning whether districts have people who are totally qualified to produce the financial statements without the help of a certified financial institution.”

The other deficiency listed in the audit was the material overstatement of general fixed assets.

“There was an old bus that we traded in or sold that was still on our financial statement,” Holmes said. “We purchase buses every year; some of our old buses we either trade in or sell, and one of our old buses was still on our fixed asset report. This inflated our fixed assets by a certain amount that caused it to be overstated. It was a simple mistake. To remedy the problem, we are doing a full inventory this year, and will probably change our inventory company. We will purchase new inventory software and assign someone the responsibility of monitoring fixed assets. It's not a big deal, but we want make sure we correct it.”

Other business

In other business at its Oct. 27 meeting, the school board:

— Appointed Peter Shunney as clerk of the works for the district’s $12-million-plus building project.

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