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Salmon River school officials say district’s fiscal report card misleading

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FORT COVINGTON - The Salmon River School District may not be as “susceptible to fiscal stress” as the state Comptroller’s Office reported on Thursday, according to school business executive Natascha Jock.

The comptroller’s report, which examined the financial conditions of 674 school districts throughout the state, factored in the use of fund balances, short-term debt and cash on hand to determine whether schools across the state are fiscally stressed.

But unlike other school districts, Salmon River Central School is contracted by New York state each year to run the St. Regis Mohawk School, Ms. Jock explained, forcing the district to take out short-term loans. The state reimburses the school for all its Mohawk School-relted expenditures only after SRCS submits an end-of-year bill.

Ms. Jock says the comptroller’s office failed to account for SRC’s special monetary situation and penalized the school for the $11 million in short-term debt issued to the school in 2013 to run the Mohawk School.

Without those penalities, SRCS would have joined school districts like Brushton-Moira and St. Regis Falls in the “no designation” category of the report as opposed to “susceptible,” Ms. Jock explained.

“If we were paid to operate the St. Regis Mohawk up front from New York state, we would not need to obtain short-term financing annually,” she said.

Schools in the report were designated as either in “significant fiscal stress,” in “moderate fiscal stress” or as “susceptible to fiscal stress.” If a school did not fall into any of these categories it was listed as “no designation.”

Statewide, 12 of the state’s 674 school districts were classified by the comptroller as in “significant fiscal stress,” 23 in “moderate fiscal stress,”and 52 as “susceptible to fiscal stress.” The north country had one of the highest rates of fiscal distress in the state, with 16.9 percent of districts considered stressed at some level, according to the report.

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