Audit Shows Sag Harbor School District To Be In Good Financial Standing

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An audit of the Sag Harbor School District’s finances from the 2013-14 fiscal year has proved to be one of the best the district has received in recent years, according to school officials and the company that conducted the audit.

At Monday evening’s School Board meeting, Alexandria Battaglia, a partner at Islandia-based R.S. Abrams & Co. LLP, briefed board and audience members on the district’s financial statements from the last fiscal year, pointing out that school officials have significantly increased the district’s fund balance over the last three years. In the 2010-11 school year, the fund balance was at a low of 9.5 percent of the overall budget, or $2.8 million, but it was brought up to 23.8 percent, or $7.9 million, for 2013-14.

The school district’s business administrator, Jennifer Buscemi, noted that the fund balance amounts to the district’s savings over time, some of which is restricted to pay for specific types of expenses, such as retirement, workers’ compensation and capital projects. Unrestricted funds in the fund balance are capped by the state at 4 percent.

The district operated on a $35.5 million budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Because of the increased percentage for the fund balance, in addition to following all of the recommendations made by R.S. Abrams & Co. after the 2012-13 audit, Ms. Battaglia said she saw the district’s financial condition this year to be “an enormous improvement” from previous years. As recently as the 2010-11 school year, the state comptroller’s office had categorized Sag Harbor’s financial standing as “susceptible to fiscal stress.”

“We’re just hoping you can maintain that as you move forward,” Ms. Battaglia said Monday night of the district’s good financial standing.

School Board Vice President Chris Tice agreed and said that in her five years on the board, she has not seen a better audit. “This was by far the most powerful, strongest performance on an audit,” she said.

Communications Specialist?

Superintendent of Schools Katy Graves said on Monday night that she is going to request that the district hire a communications specialist to manage Sag Harbor’s website, as well as to photograph district events, send out districtwide emails, and maintain social media platforms.

Ms. Graves is going to make the recommendation to the district’s Communications Committee, which had suggested the creation of such a position back in April.

She will recommend a specialist from the Board of Cooperative Educational Services, who will work with Syntax Communication—a public relations firm that represents many Long Island school districts, with which the district is already in contract—for the remainder of the school year at a prorated cost of $26,085.

The position would require a candidate with at least a bachelor’s degree who has two or more years of experience in communications or related fields. The job will consist of a seven-hour workday in addition to attending school events and Board of Education meetings.

Ms. Graves said that although hiring this specialist would be one more thing the district would have to pay for, it would at least lessen the burden for the administrators who currently handle those tasks in addition to doing other work. For example, the director of technology, Scott Fisher, manages the district’s website and videotapes all of the School Board meetings in addition to his other responsibilities.

“We’re putting out a cost, but I think we’re also netting a cost, because we can use our technology administrators more effectively,” Ms. Graves said.

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