Despite closing the 2008-2009 fiscal year with a $362,000 shortfall, officials with the Sag Harbor School District seem certain the district will be able to close out the 2009-2010 books with $625,000 in unreserved fundbalance, or surplus monies. During an interview on Tuesday afternoon with the press, superintendent Dr. John Gratto said $505,000 carried over from the last school year will likely remained untouched this year and will remain in the surplus fund for the district. As the board attempts to operate with leaner reserves, Dr.Gratto said the district expects to save $100,000 through a budget freeze, $160,000 from transportation costs, and $300,000 from a decreased need in services provided byBOCES . According to the district’s business manager Len Bernard, $625,000 will account for around 2.2 percent of this years budget. Although the state allows for schools to carry up to four percent of the budget in unreserved fundbalance into the next fiscal year, Bernard said keeping two to three percent in undesignated surplus is appropriate for a district the size of Sag Harbor.
Dr. John Gratto stated that the unanticipated expenses in the 2008-2009 budget, including $200,000 for tuition at the Child Development Center of the Hamptons, $360,000 for potential retroactive pay, and around $200,000 in other overspent line items, would have been further exacerbated had it not been for savings accrued over the year.The savings included eliminating positions in the school lunch program and the business office, switching telephone companies, and renegotiating special education contracts.
Although the district received positive feedback in several areas from their independent auditor Coughlin, Foundotos, Cullen and Danowski, LLP, the audit for 2008-2009 pointed out several areas of improvement. The auditors noted that some transfers “took place after the appropriation had beenover-expended ” and recommended that the district make budget transfers before over spending occurs. In addition, school board president WalterWilcoxen noted on Tuesday that the board will approve almost all transfers. Previously, the board only examined transfers over $10,000.