NORTH SHORE BOE TO OPEN DISTRICT AUDIT COMMITTEE TO COMMUNITY MEMBERS
September 15, 2015 -- The North Board of Education decided at its regularly scheduled meeting this past Thursday to revise its bylaws so as to open up the District’s Audit Committee to community members. At its July 7 Annual Organization meeting, Trustee Sara Jones proposed that the Board look into making the change in the Committee’s composition. Currently the audit committee, which assists the Board of Education with matters related to both internal and external audits, is made up exclusively of the seven board members with most of its meetings being open to public under the New York State Open Meetings law.
A decade ago, in the aftermath of the 2005 Roslyn School District embezzlement scandal, the state passed legislation requiring that virtually every district in the state have an audit committee. It can be composed of only school board members, non-school board members exclusively, or a combination of school board members and non-school board members. Committee members, if non-school board members, can reside within or outside the district.
The composition of most Long Island school district’s Audit Committees resembles North Shore’s. However there are a significant number that include community members. Trustee Toni Labatte said that she had reached out to several of those that do, but only received a response from one - East Williston. There a Board member said that “it was one of the best things they had done,” adding that the community audit committee members “are individuals with great knowledge,” and that the board has gained “greater expertise” as a result.
Trustee Maryanne Russo commented that the district has been putting financial statements on its website, increasing the district’s transparency and that she supported opening up North Shore’s Audit Committee to community members. “There’s an advantage to having people with that skill set. It’s good to have people looking at it with a different eye.”
“The board is interested in being as transparent as we can be,” said Trustee Sara Jones. “We should be proud of what we do fiscally and this will expose that.”
Trustee Michael Nightingale agreed with his colleagues saying, “I like the idea of bringing the public into it. We’ve had some great reports [from the auditors].”
The Board agreed that it should develop new bylaws to change the Audit Committee’s composition to include community members and that the change would be implemented during the 2016-17 school year.
Since the Roslyn scandal, the State now requires that four different entities be involved in the auditing process, each with distinct and separate functions. According to the Comptroller’s regulations they are as as follows.
“External Auditor – Audits financial statements to render an opinion on whether they adhere to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).
“Internal Auditor – Performs risk assessments and helps the board in developing internal controls to reduce financial risk.
“Claims Auditor/Deputy Claims Auditor – Ensures that all expenditure vouchers are properly itemized and documented before payments are made by the treasurer.
“Audit Committee – Assists the board of education with matters related to both internal and external audits, including input on the hiring of internal and external auditors and reviewing reports and recommendations.”
(T. Madden, Northwordnews)
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