Comptroller: Vestal school district overtaxed, misled residents

By Amy Khuu

April 24, 2014 Updated Apr 25, 2014 at 3:57 PM EDT

Vestal, N.Y. (WBNG Binghamton) The Vestal Central School District has been overtaxing and may have been misleading its residents for the past five years, according to the latest audit by the New York Comptroller's Office.

But the district said the audit is untrue, offensive and misguided because the state should take more responsibility.

The state's report said the board of education failed to develop reasonable budgets between 2008 and 2013, and that the adopted budgets spent more money than the 3,400 student district needed.

Over a 5 year period, general fund generated approximately $4.5 million in operating surpluses, while the district raised the tax levy by $4.8 million over the same period. The comptroller's office stated unreasonable budgetary practices or lack of information about actual budget performances can mislead taxpayers. More accurate estimates of revenues and expenditures may have reduced or eliminated the need to increase taxes.

The district responded to the audits in a letter calling the results offensive, disappointing and not based on fact.

Vestal Board of Education President Kim Meyers said the district took such actions because of unfunded state mandates and the state's imposed 2 percent tax cap.

Meyers also pointed to high marks in recent years from independent auditors and an upgraded Moody's rating, which allows the district to borrow money at lower interest rates.

"The tone and implication of the audit report is very disappointing , offensive and untypical of an audit centered on fact, in light of the positive fiscal positioning that the Vestal Central School District has strived for," Myers wrote to the state.

Myers also blamed the amount of money in district coffers on a moves by the state since 2008 to reduce educational aid. Myers said the district has lost $17 million since then.

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