Mineola school district mismanaged finances, audit finds

Mineola school district mismanaged finances, audit finds
The Mineola Union Free School District Board of Education was found to be mismanaging their financial condition during an audit period of 2016-2020. (Photo courtesy of the Mineola Union Free School District)

The Mineola school district maintained excessive budget surpluses over four years, an audit by the state comptroller’s office has found.

The Board and District officials did not effectively manage the District’s financial condition,” said the comptroller’s report. “As a result, more taxes were levied than were needed to fund operations.”

The audit, released Sept. 3, was conducted by the office of state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and covered the period from July 1, 2016,  to June 30, 2020. For that period, it said, the surplus was  $20.7 million. 

The maximum surplus allowed is 4 percent, but the Mineola school district’s surplus, or appropriated fund balance, reached 13 percent, according to the audit.

The audit said the school board did not adjust the ensuing years’ budgets based on results in the previous years.

Recommendations from the state comptroller’s office included adopting budgets with reasonable estimates based on trends, analysis and other factors. 

In response to the audit, School Superintendent Michael Nagler addressed each concern and recommendation presented in the 13-page document, generally agreeing with the findings and suggestions.

The school district’s response said in part, “There are numerous contingencies that can and do result in a tax levy spike. The District believes it is prudent to provide for possible contingencies within the adopted budget in order to protect District operations, and to protect the District taxpayers from unnecessary spikes in tax rates.” 

One recommendation was that the district comply with the statutory fund balance limit of 4 percent. The state suggested using surplus funds to benefit taxpayers in the form of one-time expenditures, paying off debt and reducing district property taxes.

In response, the district said, “The district will continue to repair and update district facilities with capital transfers.” The statement continues, “The District has continued an aggressive schedule of debt repayment resulting in a 35% reduction and has also incurred savings in excess of $800,000 by leveraging low interest rates to refinance debt obligations.” 

Asked for comment, Nagler said in a statement: “Last year the district had a zero levy. For the past 12 years the district averaged a 1.2% levy. Simultaneously, the district transferred money from the fund balance into the budget to achieve capital upgrades. Our community is informed of how the district spends the surplus and has supported our budgets every year with over 70% approval.”

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  1. Mineola may be operating with a surplus which means they have been able to manage and keep funds in reserve by strategically spending and saving money all while providing a high level of education to the student body. They are building a bigger better school district in Mineola. Don’t forget the school district provide iPads to all students and is one of a handful Apple accredited schools in the country. When Covid shut down schools, Mineola hit the road running as they had emergency learn from home plans already in place. They also started working on the return to the classroom plan the minute schools got shutdown. Please also remember that Mineola also offers programs to students who look for alternatives to college with programs for those who want to learn a trade. Unlike Roslyn, Hempstead and Roosevelt where funds have been stolen Mineola’s board has a vested interest in truly having a positive impact on the students of the district. This is not a mismanagement of funds, that would be the case if money was missing, or that they were operating above budget. The fact that they have been able to operate, improve and save money for larger big picture projects should be applauded because in a business world scenario it would be.


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