School Accountability Legislation Signed Into Law
Senator John J. Flanagan (R,C-East Northport) announced that a package of legislation he cosponsored, that will strengthen oversight and increase accountability of school district finances, while protecting property taxpayers from fraud and abuse, was signed into law by Governor George E. Pataki.
"These legislative reforms will help ensure that money budgeted for educating children is being expended correctly," said Senator Flanagan. "The public is genuinely concerned about how their dollars for education are being spent especially in the wake of the recent events in the Roslyn and William Floyd school districts. They must feel confident that there are effective internal controls, responsible budgeting and prudent expenditure of taxpayers’ funds."
"I am pleased to sign this comprehensive legislation into law, providing greater oversight and accountability of school district finances and ensuring that parents, students and teachers have the ultimate confidence in the school officials with whom they have placed their trust," Governor Pataki said.
The measure requires that school board member receive six hours of financial oversight training, while establishing an internal audit mechanism within each school district. In addition, the new law mandates a competitive Request for Proposal or RFP process for selecting audit firms and changing independent auditors every three years. It also requires a formal response by the school board to issues raised in the audit.
Under the terms of the statute, all school districts, boards of cooperative educational services (BOCES) and charter schools would be audited by the State Comptroller at least once prior to 2010. Subsequent State audits would be determined according to a risk assessment conducted by the Comptroller. The Comptroller would report his findings to the Governor the Legislature in December of each year. In addition, independent audits would be required at least once a year.
By signing the bills into law the state makes $2.9 million in funding available to conduct the various audits, enabling the Office of State Comptroller to examine financial documents and records, assess the current financial practices of schools to ensure they are consistent with established standards, and determine that school districts have in place adequate protections against fraud, theft or professional misconduct.
"This legislation invests in our schools, our children and our communities," concluded Senator Flanagan.