The New York State Comptroller’s report on the Educational Grant to the Valhalla Union Free School District is available to the public electronically on the Town’s Web site (WestHELP audit report) or in hard copy in the Town Clerk’s office.
After the Town Board has had time to fully digest the contents of the report, we will be in a better position to decide what the next step is. We are pleased the comptroller’s office included the Town Board’s response to the draft report as well as the Supervisor’s. We were also pleased to see the final report clarified who exactly the “Town officials” were that claimed the WestHELP facility would have an adverse impact on the community and that 20 percent of children at the facility would attend the Valhalla schools (page 12 of the report).
The report makes six recommendations, one of which the Town complied with when it approved the 2007 Adopted Budget: ensuring all rental receipts received are fully recognized and credited to the town-wide general fund.
Other recommendations in the report include: the Town should recover any funds provided to the Valhalla Schools Foundation as those payments violate the State Constitution prohibition on gifts and loans of public funds to private organizations; and that the Town should only enter into agreements that are clear and accurate. Town officials should not assume that clauses and provisions in agreements are inapplicable and, therefore, will not be implemented.
We have relied upon the town’s professionals, including its full-time chief financial officer, to conduct business in accordance with the law. When the Supervisor presented his budget proposal he did not include the rental receipts for the WestHELP property. We corrected that in the final budget document.
The comptroller’s report stated it will be auditing the Valhalla School District. One of the issues they will be looking at is the salary of the grant administrator. The report stated the district does not have time records to support the amount of time spent by the grant administrator, who is also a principal in the district. The educational grant requires the administrator to expend the majority of his time administering the grant.
We will be examining and discussing the report in detail in the coming weeks. Pursuant to Section 35 of the General Municipal Law, the Town Board will prepare a plan of action within 90 days that addresses the recommendations in the report. When completed, the plan of action will be forwarded to the comptroller’s office and will be available for public review in the Town Clerk’s office.