Weekly Feature

2017-10-12 / Local News

District labeled in stable financial condition


The West Seneca Central School District received a clean bill of health from Matthew Montalbo, a certified public accountant with Drescher and Malecki, based on the district’s 2016-17 financial statements.

Montalbo gave a presentation on the results of an audit completed June 30. Despite the unmodified opinion, officials said the district will likely still be listed as a district susceptible to fiscal stress.

“More than likely, when the comptroller comes out with that fiscal stress designation, we will still be in susceptible range. Although we have improved greatly, we still have a ways to go,” said Janice Lewandowski, financial and computer services manager for the district.

She said the rating judges districts historically, and due to West Seneca’s rocky financial past, the designation is a possibility.

According to Montalbo, the district has seen an impressive rate of financial recovery.

“You went from, essentially, in ’12-13 a deficit of $27,000 and have been able to recover to almost $4.7 million in ’16-17, and that is right at the Real Property Tax Level limit that you’re allowed,” he said.

A healthy fund balance was generated in the last two fiscal years. Montalbo said the district generated $4.2 million during the 2015-16 year, and $7.7 million during the 2016-17 year.

“On the expenditures side, what really jumps out is that in the last three years you’ve been able to maintain that budget level,” Montalbo said.

Retirement incentives were offered during both the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years, creating an expenditure spike that has since been offset.

Following several tumultuous years, the district has stabilized through difficult maintenance decisions.

“Changing the health insurance structure to a self-insured plan so the district has experienced those savings over the last two fiscal years, I think that’s essentially how you’ve been able to stabilize in the expenditure area,” Montalbo said.

Additionally, he credits the stabilization to slight recovery in state aid awards and strict cost controlling measures by the district.

Recovery of the general fund and a solid buildup in the district’s fund balance also contribute to Montalbo’s positive summary.

“You can see the recovery over the last two years. In ’16-17, your fund balance increased to $15.2 million in the general fund,” he said.

Of this fund balance, $4.8 million is unrestricted and $10.4 million is restricted.

While many criticize the district’s high tax rate, Treasurer Brian Schulz noted that West Seneca is ranked 15 of the 27 school districts in Erie County.

“I always hear that West Seneca is the most overtaxed school district in all of the world,” he said. “We’re nowhere near the highest, and we’re certainly closer to the bottom.”

He added that the district’s tax rate, set at $17.42 for the 2017-18 school year, is lower than the county average of $18.60 for the 2015-16 year.

Schulz said the district remained under the tax cap every year, despite calls for exceeding the cap to lift the district out of its financial crisis.

Now that the crisis is over, Schulz said the district is moving forward with a long-term plan to refill positions and bring back programming for students.

email: jwaters@beenews.com

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