TH auditor not fazed by diminished fund balance

CRARYVILLE–Despite a 7% decrease in the Taconic Hills School District’s general fund balance, compared to last year, Victor Churchill, CPA, who presented a summary of an independent audit report, called the district’s finances “relatively healthy.” The near 80-page audit was done by the firm Sickler, Torchia, Allen and Churchill.

Board member Christine Perry expressed concern at the October 19 school board meeting about the reduced fund especially in light of a property tax cap and possible, unforeseen federal and state mandates in the future. Churchill acknowledged Perry’s concern and reiterated that the issues she brought up are among the “challenges of tomorrow” outlined in the report’s first eight pages.

But District Business Manager Cybil Howard noted that several items of long-term indebtedness, which include the school district’s pool, will be paid off by 2022, will provide some relief in future budgets.

Another future challenge for the district is increased enrollment of homeless students. Jack Costello, Director of Pupil Personnel Services, reported that this year the district has 22 students classified as homeless compared to four students last year. Mr. Costello told the board “the problem will only get worse.”

Despite the jump in the number of homeless students, Mr. Costello explained that overall the district’s homeless student population is too small to warrant applying for financial assistance from private or public sources without working cooperatively with other school districts receiving such aid. The drawback to a joint effort, according to Mr. Costello, is all the school districts become mutually responsible for students’ progress or lack thereof and that “would not be advantageous for us.”

Facilities Director Nicholas Smith updated the board on results from state mandatory testing for lead contamination on school building water. Smith said that out of 400 water samples, 80 faucets were deemed to have unacceptable levels of lead. More than half–56–were from faucets in labs and outdoor hoses, which aren’t “usual drinking” sources. Thirteen bathroom sink faucets and eight miscellaneous classroom style faucets also have lead levels considered too high.

The district will need to develop a remediation plan regarding the lead findings. Mr. Smith said that three kitchen sink faucets, used for food preparation and hand washing, have been replaced and will be re-tested. “Not Potable Water” signs have been put in the labs and near the suspect hoses. Mr. Smith suggested that the bathroom and miscellaneous faucets could be decommissioned. New faucets cost $300 each.

In other business at the October 19 meeting:

• Mr. Smith also advised the board that the high school cafeteria tables, originally installed in 1999, should be replaced. A PowerPoint slide presentation showed several design options and he added that there is an option to embed the school logo on the furniture

• The board approved spending not to exceed $51,900 for a new 16-passenger school bus to replace one totaled in a May 2016 accident. An insurance settlement of $50,383.82 covers the bulk of expense for the new bus

• Installation and operation of the new scoreboard is in its final stages. Facilities Director Smith says the new scoreboard is “fully digitalized” and can be used for all sports teams’ games.

The next scheduled meeting of the Taconic Hills Central School District Board of Education is Wednesday, November 16 at 6:30 p.m. in the Board of Education room on the Craryville campus.

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