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Small school districts expect savings without internal audit

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School districts with enrollments of fewer than 1,500 no longer have to complete yearly internal audits thanks to mandate relief embedded in this year’s state budget.

The state’s decision to drop the mandate could save small districts thousands of dollars.

Morristown Central School Superintendent David J. Glover estimated the savings will amount to $5,000 to $10,000 this year alone.

At Lisbon Central School, Business Manager Wendy S. White said she expects to see savings of $5,400 this year because of the state’s decision. Mrs. White said the district won’t miss the internal audits.

Michael Robinson, assistant school business manager at Heuvelton Central School, said he expects the district to save $9,500 this year by not having to carry out the internal audit.

But that won’t mean small schools won’t have their books checked.

Thomas R. Burns, superintendent and executive officer at St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES, said schools will still have to conduct annual external audits and undergo an audit from the state comptroller’s office every three to five years.

“Internal audits were started approximately 10 years ago,” Mr. Burns said, as a response to several allegations of fraud at small schools downstate.

“The internal audit was supposed to be not so much an audit of the books ... more geared towards risk assessment and fraud,” he added.

Mr. Burns said, for the most part, the internal audit and the external audit covered the same ground.

“I think that we’ve proven over the years that the vast majority of schools are responsible with their funds,” said Susan E. Todd, Heuvelton Central School superintendent, “Another (audit) is just not going to help us.”

Mr. Glover said the internal audit is redundant.

“A lot of times there’s overlap,” he said. “It’s a welcome relief” to have the requirement removed.

Though every thousand dollars in savings counts, Mr. Glover said, “It’s not the level of relief that I’d like to see.”

Mr. Burns also noted the internal audit requirement’s removal will free employees to work on other projects.

“You have to make your books available; you have to pull quite a number of documents,” he said. “It will definitely help significantly in terms of staff time.”

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