Forestville school audit report focuses on transportation, cafeteria issues

FORESTVILLE – New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli Tuesday announced his office has completed an audit of the Forestville Central School District and made recommendations for improving transportation and cafeteria service.

The audit results say district officials have not identified opportunities to reduce student transportation cost by performing appropriate analyses, such as an annual review of bus routes. The audit determined that the district may be able to save money by reducing excess capacity on buses, evaluating shared runs with other districts for private-school and special-needs routes and reviewing the number of spare buses in its fleet.

By improving transportation efficiency, it estimates that the district could save approximately $36,500 annually and more than $460,500 by maximizing bus capacity over two years.

“In an era of limited resources and increased accountability, it’s critical that schools make every dollar count,” DiNapoli said. “By auditing school district and charter school finances and operations, my office continues to provide taxpayers the assurance that their money is being spent appropriately and effectively.”

The audit noted the cafeteria fund’s financial condition has declined over the past five years as it experienced operating deficits, resulting in a $215,678 deficit fund balance as of June 30, 2013. This occurred because the cafeteria fund budget was not realistic, revenues from meal prices fell significantly short of cafeteria operating costs and collection on overdrawn student and faculty cafeteria accounts was not enforced. Because of the operating deficits and depleted fund balance, the cafeteria fund does not have sufficient available cash to repay its outstanding $34,000 loan from the general fund.

A key responsibility for school districts is to develop and manage services, programs and resources as efficiently and economically as possible and to communicate the results of these efforts to taxpayers. The board’s managerial responsibilities include ensuring that transportation is provided to students within the district’s boundaries, which encompass 112 square miles. These transportation services include before- and after-school routes, sports runs, late runs, Board of Cooperative Education Services runs and special education runs.

The audit recommended the district should routinely evaluate its bus routes and deploy its fleet in the most efficient manner so that, whenever possible, buses are fully occupied. Evaluating performance measures for efficiency, such as bus capacity, will help the District assign the maximum number of students to buses to reduce the number of routes and buses needed. Although school districts may schedule their bus routes based on potential riders, all potential riders do not necessarily take the bus. Therefore, school districts can save money by planning bus routes based on actual ridership. By basing the number and size of its buses on actual needs, the District can reduce its cost to purchase, operate and maintain buses.

Forestville Board of Education President Sylvester Cleary sent a letter to the comptroller addressing the audit.

In the letter, Cleary called the audit “unrealistic” when it states the district should cut from nine to six in-district bus runs. He states it is “impossible to know” which students assigned to the bus runs will be absent from the bus on any given day.

Cleary agrees the cafeteria conditions need to be closely worked on. The letter reads the lunch prices are evaluated each year by the district.

The school president’s letter reads he and the district appreciate the recommendations and work done by the comptroller.