Senator Saland Legislation To Reimburse School Districts Efforts To Ensure More Accountability Passes Senate

Stephen M. Saland

May 16, 2006

Senator Steve Saland (R,C Poughkeepsie) today announced his legislation that would allow claims auditing or internal auditing services to be considered a state aidable shared service (S.7499) has passed the Senate. The legislation will assist school districts in their efforts to ensure greater accountability, while protecting local taxpayers from being burdened by an unfunded mandate.

Last year, there was great public outcry because of events that occurred in school districts, most notably on Long Island, in which millions of dollars were stolen by school administrative personnel. Criminal charges were brought and at least one or more perpetrators pled guilty to crimes.

"In response to the fiscal investigations involving school districts, the Five-Points School Financial Accountability Plan was crafted to provide strong internal controls, improve school district audits and strengthen the role of school boards in ensuring that school district tax dollars are being effectively protected," Senator Saland said. "Part of the Five-Points plan provided for more internal claims auditing and provided that the comptroller audit school districts at least once every five years."

Saland said that when the legislation was crafted, it was critically important that claims auditing and internal auditing services would be considered a state aidable expenditure. "One of the issues discussed during negotiations was the importance of ensuring that these auditing expenses were state aidable. The State Education Department advised, and the State Legislature, the State Comptroller and the education advocacy groups agreed, that it was state aidable, only to learn subsequently that the Division of the Budget maintained that it was not," said Saland.

"As Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, I have been consistently opposed to unfunded mandates, and this issue of aidability is especially important to me," Saland said. "While the State Education Department viewed this expenditure as aidable, the Division of Budget has denied school districts any reimbursement for the expenses incurred as a result of their efforts to ensure more accountability. This legislation will reinforce the legislative intent and understanding of all parties that the claims auditing and internal auditing services should be considered aidable."