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West Valley school board discusses reserve funds, potential capital project plan at special meeting

WEST VALLEY — A special meeting of the West Valley Central School Board took place on Dec. 30 at 6:30 p.m. in the school’s auditorium.

Business Official Ann O’Brien presented a summary and explanation of the district’s fund balance accounts.

“The New York State Comptroller’s Office has been auditing districts, for the past five or six years,” she said. O’Brien confirmed that financial statements are posted on the school’s website.

A state audit is processed every five years, in which all school districts in the state are reviewed. “We have been audited in the past; this is our second audit,” said O’Brien. The comptroller’s office – over the course of two months – reviewed how the West Valley district has budgeted various aspects of its funds, including how the school pays its bills, how payroll is administered and how money is transferred between bank accounts.

“The state did not see any problems in those areas. However, the state did decide to focus on our reserve accounts,” said O’Brien.

“The state feels as though the district has too much fund balance,” she explained. “But this is a very subjective opinion; the state is not saying how much fund balance a district should have. At the end of last school year, June 30, 2013, our total fund balance was roughly $3.2 million and we did have about $153,000 in our unemployment reserve. Unlike a private business, if we were to lay off employees, we cannot pay unemployment insurance. We pay dollar for dollar. If a teacher is laid off, they collect roughly $400 a week.

“We have almost $724,000 in our Employee Benefit Accrued Liability reserve,” she continued.

“Years ago, it was believed that a school could place money in this reserve, to help pay for post-employment benefits or health insurance for retirees. The state said that the district cannot put money into this reserve, for retiree health benefits. The district does have a liability associated with retiree health insurance. This liability – projected to future estimations – is over $9 million,” said O’Brien.

The business official also described the tax certiorari reserve. For example, “A residential land owner or business could file a lawsuit against a school, town or county, for reasons that their assessment of property value was too high. If this were to happen to our district, we have money in this reserve to handle this. In a discussion between the board and audit committee, this year, we felt that we could reduce this reserve; we have not had any claims such as this in quite awhile.”

The tax certiorari reserve is listed at roughly $130,000.

“As a school district, we do not buy our insurance. We pool our money with all schools in Cattaraugus and Allegany counties, so we are self-insured. The funds in the workers’ compensation reserve is to help us with expenses such as this,” O’Brien continued.

The balance in this reserve is listed at nearly $295,000, as of June 30, 2012.

O’Brien also described the encumbrance reserve. “By example, at the end of a fiscal year, the district orders school supplies, but the order was not received yet. Those outstanding funds are reflected in this reserve.”

The encumbrance reserve is listed at roughly $34,600 as of June 30, 2013.

“The comptroller’s report suggested that the West Valley district had too much money in restricted reserves,” added O’Brien.

The restricted reserves require that, each year, any interest earned can be accrued to the respective reserve account. O’Brien’s summary of account balances confirmed – in regard to the actual operating budget results – the difference between actual revenue and actual expenditures has been reduced by roughly $307,000 from the years 2009-2010 to 2012-2013. O’Brien concluded that the audit report suggested an unfavorable approach to having flexibility in the district’s budget, to provide for unexpected expenses.

“We have a roof that is leaking badly, in the elementary wing; we are going to need it replaced and there are also issues with mold. I believe the district ran out of money, in their last capital project, and therefore, were unable to fix the roof,” said O’Brien.

“A decision was made, at the end of last year, for the intent to make it easier for people to understand; we decided to remain transparent and kept $406,136 in our undesignated fund balance. Once a capital project is in place, we will ask the voters to move this amount over to our capital fund. Therefore, we will not need to increase taxes for the capital project we need to do.”

She added, “The district has not done anything illegal, in regards to restricted reserves; it is up to the board of education on what amount they intent to place, in those reserves.”

Board member Michael Frascella commented on the subject of mergers. “Mergers have to be voted on, by both districts; it is not automatic. Both sides have to accept the merger. West Valley does have students who are going to Ellicottville, but it is not a significant number.”

Principal Dan Amodeo said, “Last year, the top 10 of 100 seniors had 12 college credits and we offer up to nearly 30, now.”

Amodeo assured the public that he hand-schedules every student at West Valley, to make sure he meets each of their requests. “We have students placed in study halls quite often; sometimes three to four, per day. I felt this could no longer happen. We will be looking into this, next year,” said Amodeo.

Certain times of the day have students scheduled to a study hall, when there are no vacancies for a designated course. Amodeo said he wants to change that pattern with the use of online and distant learning for students. That way, WVCS can offer its students the opportunity to take courses that are not offered within their own school.

“It is not accurate to say that our school cannot offer the same courses that Ellicottville does, or that we cannot compete with them,” Amodeo said. “Our students fare well, in the outside world, and we can do a lot to make our kids college-ready, but this does not necessarily mean it should be measured with a test, or what a student has on a transcript.”

Jerry Young, of Young and Wright Architectural Firm, gave a proposal for building repairs. The board will select repair projects of interest on the list, to be prioritized appropriately. Some may be considered over a five-year plan, while other, higher-priority projects can be considered earlier.

There were 10 areas of concern at the school’s bus garage and more than 80 areas of concern, at the main building.

Amy Butler was designated the girls elementary basketball program facilitator, for the 2013-14 winter season, and Kristopher Fuller was designated as the boy’s elementary basketball program facilitator. Both personnel members were previously approved for their position at the Dec. 9 board meeting and their titles were amended to read “program facilitator,” instead of “basketball coach.”

The New York State comptroller’s report for July 1, 2009-June 4, 2013 was accepted, as was the district’s response and corrective action plan.

The administration of the oath of office was presented to Lynn Rogers; who was appointed a West Valley Board of Education Member. Rogers will fill the seventh seat, effective Dec. 30, 2013-May 20, 2014.

On May 20, 2014, the board will certify the outcome of the annual board of education vote for this specific seat.

The next regular board meeting will take place on Jan. 6 at 7 p.m. in the library and media center.


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