NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – In just 18 months at the helm as the Superintendent of Schools in New Rochelle, Dr. Brian Osborne and his staff have reduced fiscal stress by more than 20 percent district-wide.
Since 2013, the New York State Comptroller’s office has evaluated school districts to determine if any are facing financial crisis that may befall local governments.
According to a report file by Deputy New York State Comptroller Gabriel F. Deyo, New Rochelle schools were issued a Fiscal Stress Score of 30 percent, down from 41.7 percent a year ago, and 50 percent in the initial evaluation, before Osborne took over.
Due to the improved rating, the New Rochelle School District’s fiscal condition has been announced as “susceptible to fiscal stress,” an improvement from the “moderate fiscal stress” designation it’s earned the past two years.
“We’re trending in the right direction. I inherited a budget that was designed to have higher expenditures than revenues, spending down the fund balance to levels that would potentially lead to a downgrade in the district’s bond rating,” Osborne said. “In just 18 months being here, we’ve reduced that score 30 percent, which helped re-categorize our fiscal stress designation.”
The fiscal score is determined through a series of factors, including the depth of a district’s fund balance, its operating deficit, expenditures versus revenues and short term debt issuances, among other issues.
Osborne said that it’s been a team effort to tighten up the budget and improve solvency to the district, including cuts in travel for professional development and the reuse of certain materials, where applicable.
“(At the beginning of last year,) we shared with our leadership and staff what the situation was, and we instituted some pretty strong fiscal management provisions, which helped us end the year without spending more than our revenues,” he said. “We instituted a spending freeze, asking everybody to be careful, using existing materials before ordering new.
“We scoured the closets. We asked people to be much more conservative. This year, we’ve planned the first balanced budget since the recession started.”
When Osborne took over in July 2014, auditors warned him that the district’s “fund balance was getting dangerously low,” and that due to that, the district’s bond rating was in danger of dropping. At the beginning of this academic year, the district was “fiscally solvent.”
“We should expect to see further improvements (to the fiscal rating,)” he said. “We want to get the fund balance to a place where it is up to the amount allowed by law, because that will put the district in position to be solvent. It will lead to a better bond rating and allow us to withstand any future downturns in the economy, should that happen again.
“If anything goes wrong financially, we will still be able to provide our students what they need and deserve to graduate, ready to be successful. We don’t want to see our students at risk because of our school district.”
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