Auditor: District Is ‘Low-Risk’

NORTHPORT-EAST NORTHPORT, New York, November 20

BY: Andrew Wroblewski

A month after a state comptroller audit criticized the Northport-East Northport School District for overestimating budget appropriations, an independent auditor has qualified the district as a “low-risk auditee.”

Peter Rodriguez, CPA, partner of Cullen & Danowski, LLP, presents the annual report of the Northport-East Northport School District’s financial statements during a special meeting on Nov. 13.
Peter Rodriguez, CPA, partner of Cullen & Danowski, LLP, presents the annual report of the Northport-East Northport School District’s financial statements during a special meeting on Nov. 13.

On Nov. 13, findings of Cullen & Danowski, LLP, of Port Jefferson Station, presented during a special meeting of the board of education in the William J. Brosnan School cafeteria, “qualified [the district] as a low-risk auditee.” The audit looked at financial statements for the school year ending on June 30, 2014.

A month earlier, on Oct. 10  the New York State Comptroller’s office released an audit of the district that criticized it for overestimating budget appropriations by nearly $34 million over a five-year period from the 2008-09 to 2012-13 school years. A corrective action plan is currently underway to address the auditors’ comments.

Whereas the state auditors recommended the district adopt more realistic and transparent budgets; stop following practices that result in the appropriation of unexpended surplus funds not needed to fund district operations; and pay close attention to the retirement contribution reserve, Cullen & Danowski found the district’s financial status a bit less concerning. The auditors gave the district an unmodified opinion.

“That’s what’s known as a clean opinion,” Peter Rodriguez, partner of Cullen & Danowski, said. “Readers can look at the financial statements and rely upon the numbers that are in those financial statements.”

The audit did not disclose any significant deficiencies in internal control, instances of noncompliance material to the financial statements, or deficiencies in internal control over major programs. An unmodified opinion was also given in compliance for the special education cluster, the major programs that were audited, and a qualified opinion was given to the district’s “extraclassroom activity” fund since receipts necessary to the auditing process were not recorded.

The final portion of the audit, “a management letter,” Rodriguez said, contains three recommendations. Auditors at Cullen & Danowski, would like: to see the district’s claims auditor report to the board on a regular basis; to see a procedure in place that makes sure only approved journal entries are created within district’s system; and to see the district implement procedures that ensure all approved contracts for capital fund projects are put into the accounting system when said contract is approved, not when work is set to begin.

“To summarize, your opinions are all clean – clean opinions,” he said, “The reports required by the federal government… those reports are all positive, no material weaknesses – things of that nature; and those comments that we mentioned are just to help you with your control structure, they add on, they’re not material weaknesses by any means.”

Northport Board of Education members unanimously accepted the report and a corrective action plan to address the few issues found by the auditors will be submitted within the next three months.

Originally published: Long Islander News: The Record
(Thursday, November 20, 2014; A5)

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