Audit: Discrepancies in charter school finances

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Riverhead Charter School is located on Route 25 in Calverton.

The Riverhead Charter School budget has significant discrepancies between its 2011-2012 school board-approved spending plan, the budget it submitted to the New York State Department of Education and amounts reflected in the school’s end-of-year report, a new state audit has found.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a press release Wednesday that the school board missed a June 1 deadline last year to approve its spending plan and failed to keep accurate records of employees’ sick and vacation time.

Mr. DiNapoli’s office released the report titled “Riverhead Charter School – Fiscal Monitoring, Leave Accruals and Information Technology (Suffolk County)” earlier today. The report examined the school’s finances between July 1, 2010 to Dec. 31, 2011.

In addition to failing to approve its budget by June 1, the audit found that the school board also “did not receive and review quarterly balance sheets, budget-to-actual reports or monthly cash receipts reports” and last year’s spending plan failed to reflect $56,343 in revenues and $42,739 in expenditures.

As for leave accrual calculations, the audit found that the sick leave balances for the school’s six employees “were all either overstated (by a total of 19.5 hours) or understated (by a total of 77 hours) and the vacation leave of three of those employees was overstated (by a total of 72 hours).”

The audit also found one employee was overpaid $570 for unused vacation leave and the school’s records “were not sufficient” to confirm the accuracy of the principal’s leave accruals.

“The lack of accurate accrual records and adequate oversight of the leave accrual system is a significant internal control weakness,” the report states. “As a result, the school has paid employees for leave time to which they are not entitled and continues to be at risk of making these errors.”

In a letter date Dec. 6, 2012 that is attached to the audit, school board president Deborah Rutigliano said the board is in the process of complying with the report’s recommendations to better control its finances and will seek legal counsel to recoup the overpayment in accruals.

“We appreciate the extensive process that the [Office of the State Comptroller] auditors went through in evaluating the school’s operations and financial controls,” she wrote. “We are pleased that OSC’s three month process resulted in only minor recommendations, validating that our commitment to create an environment that ensures the school’s resources are being safeguarded for use in fulfilling our mission to serve the students who attend the school is being met.”

Charter school principal and executive director Raymond Ankrum, who replaced Dorothy Porteus in August, said Wednesday that although he doesn’t refute the audit’s findings, he believes it doesn’t compare to financial mismanagement reported at other Long Island schools.

For example, he said the report faulted the charter school for creating only one username and password for computer access to the school’s finances. Mr. Ankrum said the computer’s software has since been updated to allow the creation of individual access for multiple users.

“We’ve addressed it and we’re ready to move forward,” Mr. Ankrum said. “We’ve taken on the challenge. We fully embrace the report and we’re going to make the changes that need to be made in order for us to be a great school.”

Scroll down to read the complete report.

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2012 state audit of the Riverhead Charter School