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DiNapoli Launches Audits On Upstate Schools, Offers To Help Oneida County Tackle Edu Budget

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli
Brendan McDermid, Reuters

Utica, NY (WIBX) – New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is launching an audit of several charter schools in different parts of the state to provide oversight to see how taxpayer dollars are being spent. DiNapoli says the work is also about transparency and accountability. “We make sure that the money that’s been budgeted for, is going to be spend in an appropriate and proper way so it provides that level of accountability that I think it’s very important at a time where we have very limited resources, where we don’t have as much money for all the programs that we’d like to have, it’s really more important than ever that we be sure that we’re spending our money in the right way and that we’re not wasting our money,” He said.

The schools slated for financial audits are, the Brighter Choice Charter School for Boys in Albany; South Buffalo Charter School in Buffalo, and the Brooklyn Excelsior Charter School in NYC. DiNapoli said audits can take a period of months and in some cases even years by the time the field work is completed. “The process includes a draft audit that is shared with the entity that’s audited, and then they have a chance to respond so depending on how quickly all that works, an audit can take anywhere from just a few months to over 12 months so it really varies,” he said.

Locally, Utica district schools are facing tough cuts to its education budget and the comptroller said although he doesn’t have the power to give them more money, he can partner with local officials to find ways to save money, find best practices, and work to promote shared services. He says struggling school districts can also save money through energy efficiency programs, and added that in some cases installing solar panels are another way to reduce costs.

DiNapoli said there are many opportunities for districts to share back office operations between themselves, among themselves, as well as with municipal government entities, such as cities, counties and towns, in a way that will save money, particularly with IT functions and business functions. “And very often districts ask for our help to come in an help give guidance on how they can achieve that, and we’d be happy to do that for Utica and for Oneida County as well. We’d be happy to provide that kind of technical assistance,” he said. So far, he said he’s not personally received any outreach from local school district leaders but added that his office stands available to help with its current budget crisis.

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