Share this article

print logo

Audit faults Hamburg schools on $35 million project

A state audit knocks the Hamburg Central School District over a nearly $35 million renovation and reconstruction project at a number of its facilities.

“We found that the district was not transparent in its use of project funds and potentially could have spent less on the project,” the state Office of the Comptroller said in one of its criticisms.

State auditors examined the period from July 1, 2010, through March 26, 2014. During that span, the district was finalizing a capital project plan – valued at up to $34.7 million – approved by district voters in May 2011.

The audit contends district taxpayers “were not properly informed prior to voting on the project proposition.” For instance, state auditors said that the project plan was supposed to be available for public inspection at the district office but that district officials were unable to locate one.

The audit also says the district set aside $6.6 million for “general construction and work contracts, which were not part of the project’s original scope.” State auditors contend that while the district was authorized by voters to spend up to $34.7 million, “the cost to complete the project plan was $25.9 million.”

The district was provided a draft version of the comptroller’s report in June and responded via a letter in July, defending itself against the criticisms. District officials say they provided taxpayers the most details possible, given that the project was worth nearly $35 million and involved multiple sites.

“We certainly did our best to try to accurately predict at the outset, in good faith, the scope and cost of the anticipated work to be performed,” said Barbara S. Sporyz, assistant superintendent of administrative services and finance.

District officials also said they felt the “broad (yet fully transparent) language” of the proposition that had been published in newspapers allowed for “any subsequent modest deviations” from the original plan. District officials also said they were delivering a project “that adheres to both the letter and spirit of the original proposal.”

The audit said the Hamburg School Board is responsible for submitting a “corrective action plan” within 90 days.

The Hamburg school district operates six schools with nearly 3,800 students and 548 full-time employees, according to the audit. Its budgeted appropriations for the 2013-14 school year totaled $60.3 million.