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Ripley Central business manager discredits negative state report

February 16, 2017
By David Prenatt - , Westfield Republican

RIPLEY - Although a recent state report listed Ripley Central School District as "susceptible to fiscal stress," the calculations the study used are faulty and do not reflect an accurate picture, according to the district's business manager.

LouAnn Baghat told board of education members at their regular meeting on Feb. 8 that the state's calculation did not take into account state-mandated guidelines that mandated school districts to reduce fund balances.

"This calculation is faulty for any district that had an extra fund balance and followed state guidelines to reduce it," Bahgat said. "Many of the district business managers, including myself, do not agree with the calculations."

Ripley's designation in the report was based on a reported deficit, but it was a planned deficit," Bahgat said. The district had created the deficit in order to follow the state mandate to reduce the fund balance to 4% of the operating budget, she said.

"Clearly they did not consider the fact that they did not permit extra fund balances," Bahgat said. Since the fund balance has been reduced, next year's report should show Ripley as being stable, she said.

According to information provided by the Office of the New York State Comptroller, 59 school districts have been designated as fiscally stressed. Two school districts in the state are in significant fiscal stress, nine are in moderate fiscal stress, and the remaining 48, including Ripley Central School, are susceptible to fiscal stress, the Comptroller's office reports.

The New York State Office of the Comptroller states that a number of tools are available to school districts to help them manage their finances prudently. The fiscal stress monitoring system is a tool that offers districts an early warning of fiscal stress.

The Comptroller's Office awards each school district a score after examining financial indicators such as budgetary solvency, the ability to generate sufficient revenue to meet expenses, operating deficits and surpluses, and year-end fund balances.

Based on its fiscal score, a district will be given a stress designation.

The Office of the Comptroller has denoted a score of 0-24.9 percent as receiving no designation, a grade of 25-44.9 percent as susceptible, a rating of 45-64.9 percent as moderate, and a score of 65-100 percent as severe.

Ripley received no designation by the Office of the Comptroller for 2015 with a fiscal score of 15.8 percent. Ripley's score for 2016 is 40.0 percent, placing the district in the susceptible category. Baghatt said "I don't see us getting into fiscal stress, either moderate or severe."

In other business, Ripley curriculum coordinator Kim Oakes said the district has received approval for its first Smart School project and would soon be purchasing Chrome books with the funds.

"We're about to submit the paperwork and get this moving along," she said. The Chrome books are web-based, so there will not be any hardware to install, Oakes said.

Ripley superintendent Dr. Lauren Ormsby said the district is progressing in its efforts to be designated as an EL Education school. In order to move to the next level, the district must submit material demonstrating leadership, teacher and district readiness, she said.

"We've been working very hard to submit documentation," Ormsby said. "We will hear from EL Education by the end of the month and, once we move into the launch phase, we will be collecting and submitting evidence of our work There are very specific criteria we need to meet," she said.

The board also approved the hiring of Victoria Mazurkeiwicz to serve as the music teacher for the district. Additionally, Dr. John Hamels was approved to be the liaison between the school and parents.



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