SCCS District Response to NYS Comptroller Audit 2015
The Board of Education and Administration have instituted cost-saving actions and effective financial management which improved the economic outlook for the district over the past six years. Despite the extraordinary fiscal challenges that schools throughout New York have faced during that period, the district demonstrated fiscal restraint, which led to significant reductions in staffing (nearly 25 positions since 2009), reduction in operating expenses with the closure of an elementary school in 2012, and extensive lighting upgrades in 2015 to increase energy efficiency and lower utility costs.
The Board of Education and Administrative team will continue to act proactively, demonstrate fiscal responsibility, and implement additional cost-saving measures. As a result of our combined efforts, the district shifted from an operating deficit to an operating surplus in 2013. In addition, the district replenished reserves to an appropriate level which improved our ability to plan for the future. I commend the Board of Education, the community, and all staff members for building a sustainable fiscal situation despite the challenges of the GEA (Gap Elimination Adjustment) and the implementation of the 2% tax cap legislation. During the past year, Southern Cayuga was shorted more than $564,000 in state aid, and over $7 million since 2010.
Since arriving in the district in 2012, I have been impressed with the Board’s commitment to infrastructure repair, bus replacement, debt management, reserve strategy, and long-range planning. Beginning in 2010, the district worked closely with Fiscal Advisors and King + King Architects to develop capital improvement projects that would address infrastructure needs and mitigate the swings in local tax share for capital projects. Fluctuations noted in the audit report were anticipated and appropriately budgeted for as noted by the actual expense. The Board’s commitment to fiscal restraint has allowed year-end operational savings to be applied to additional short-term debt payments which decreased principal and borrowing costs, thereby limiting fluctuations in taxes. We also expect the additional payments will mitigate the anticipated local debt share increase in 2020-21.
The district diligently planned capital projects based on infrastructure needs identified in the 2010 SCCS Building Conditions Survey. District officials are currently reviewing a draft of the 2015 Building Conditions Survey from which they will develop a long-range capital improvement plan in 2016. The plan will take into account the financial implications of debt service and include a capital reserve strategy. The plan will be formally adopted by the Board upon completion.
As a district, we have made tremendous progress in regards to strategic planning, especially in the areas of capital improvements, bus purchasing, reserve strategy, stabilizing debt service, and reduced enrollment. We support the concept of a five-year plan and recognize the importance of formal adoption of each of these key elements by the Board of Education. I believe the district will benefit from even greater transparency through this process, as each of these is a critical component of a multiyear financial plan. As the economic outlook has stabilized in recent years, the district is better positioned to utilize trend data in regards to expenses and revenue sources to develop an effective and realistic long-term financial plan.