Multiple independent audits document a pattern of fiscal distress at Amityville schools

Team 12 Investigates asked every board member how they could reasonably say they did not know the district was in fiscal distress. None of them responded.

Rachel Yonkunas

Apr 11, 2024, 10:09 PM

Updated 42 days ago


Parents are demanding answers from the people entrusted with running the Amityville Union Free School District.
There is outrage and confusion over how the district is handling taxpayer dollars. The district is facing a multimillion-dollar deficit and substantial cuts are coming. Meanwhile, district officials are also proposing to increase next year’s school budget by $7.2 million.
Trustees on the Board of Education told parents that they did not know how dire the situation was until recently.
“This board was not aware of any financial problems until the middle of November or October,” trustee David Heller said at Wednesday night’s board meeting.
However, Team 12 Investigates uncovered that the Amityville school district has had an independent audit done every year since 2017. According to those audits, the district repeatedly overestimated revenues and saw its general funds decrease due to overspending.
In 2021, auditors found the district spent $2.4 million from its “unassigned fund balance” to cover costs they did not include in their budget. At the end of 2023, an audit stated the general fund balance was $8.2 million dollars less than the year before.
Team 12 Investigates asked every board member how they could reasonably say they did not know the district was in fiscal distress. None of them responded.
“They think they’re above answering to anybody and the taxpayers have a right to know what’s going on,” said James Giambrone, of Amityville
Meanwhile, the district is cutting jobs and, potentially, school programs after spending $3.6 million from its “unassigned fund balance” last school year. Despite this, district officials are proposing to increase their budget by nearly 7%.
District officials said they are projecting higher costs for employee benefits, instruction and summer school. At the same time, Team 12 Investigates has found that the district wants to allocate more money for the Board of Education, district clerk and district meetings.
A spokesperson for the New York State Education Department (NYSED) said they are aware of the community’s concerns regarding the Amityville school district and have been closely monitoring the situation, including matters regarding the fiscal state of the district and previous issues related to the educational program.
“NYSED staff have worked directly with district officials to address concerns about the use of grant funds and have worked in close collaboration with BOCES officials on Long Island to assist with questions and concerns that have been raised, including conversations about the community’s desire for a state-appointed monitor,” a department spokesperson said.
The district has hired a fiscal consultant to help them with their finances. NYSED said they will remain engaged with local stakeholders and the community.

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