New York State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) today announced the passage of a comprehensive package of school district accountability legislation in the State Senate. Inspired by the financial scandals at the Roslyn and William Floyd school districts, the Senate’s commonsense plan includes stronger financial accountability and oversight, regular state audits of school finances, increased penalties for school district officials convicted of theft and the creation of a state school inspector general.
"During the last ten years, we’ve increased state aid to Nassau County’s schools by more than 70%, said Senator Skelos. "But with school property taxes continuing to skyrocket and the scandalous incidents at Roslyn and William Floyd, this important legislation is needed to provide taxpayers with renewed confidence that their investment in education is making it into the classroom."
Last month, voters in 45 Long Island school districts—or more than one-third of such budget votes—rejected the budgets proposed by the school district. With unusually high voter turnout, the percentage of budgets passing on the first ballot was the lowest in a decade. While similar to last year, Long Island’s rejection rate was triple that of Upstate school districts and constituted over 40% of the statewide total of rejected school budgets (112).
Developed in conjunction with the New York State School Boards Association and the New York State Council of School Superintendents, the Senate plan would dramatically reform the external auditing of school district spending, provide new financial oversight training for school board members and create new internal auditing review processes within the district’s administration. In addition, it would require the State Comptroller to audit each school district, BOCES and charter school every five years.
To prevent the unjust enrichment of school district officials, the package would enable courts to recover funds from officials convicted of larceny from the school district. Also, the Senate plan creates a new, independent State Office of School Inspector General to examine, audit and evaluate all financial transactions generated by a school district in any given year.