Niskayuna

Niskayuna school board says audit found them in compliance with district policy

Exterior of Niskayuna High School
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Exterior of Niskayuna High School

The Niskayuna school board is in receipt of a report on a special audit conducted to determine if the board followed proper procedures when it hired Syracuse-based King & King, an architectural firm, to work on the district’s $80 million capital improvement project.

However, the report has not been released. 

Marvin & Co., a certified public accounting and consulting firm, was hired by the board at its special meeting Sept. 29  to complete the audit. However, the district wouldn’t provide details immediately on the audit or the cost of hiring the company. 

During a board meeting on Tuesday President Kim Tully notified the public that the audit had been completed. 

“As a board we’re focused on making sure the district is as transparent as possible, while also recognizing that at times there is information that we cannot share to protect the integrity of various processes,” she said during the meeting. “We respect the balance that this requires.

“Tonight I am pleased to say that we received the results from the audit and are sharing that information publicly.” 

She said the audit found the board was in compliance with district policy.

Tully said the audit occurred after an internal question was raised regarding whether the board followed the proper procedures when it hired King & King. After the question about the procedure was raised the board removed an agenda item to pay the architectural company until the matter was resolved, Tully said.

The first issue the audit looked into was whether the board needed to go out to competitive bid before hiring King & King. Tully said district policy states the board does not need to go out for a competitive bid because the contract concerns a professional service the architectural company is providing for which they have specialized certifications and training.

The audit also looked into the documentation of payment to King & King dating back to July 1, 2020. 

“The audit found that on several occasions a purchase order was in place prior to payment being received,” Tully said. 

She said the most recent payment request did not include a purchase order, which is why the board removed it from the agenda. 

The third issue the suit looked into was whether there were any conflicts of interest. There were none, Tully said. 

Lastly, the audit looked at whether the selection of the architectural firm fit with district policy. It was consistent with the policy during the time the company was picked in December 2018, Tully said. 

“I assure the community that we take our policy and responsible financial practices very seriously, as demonstrated by the attention we gave to this matter,” Tully said. 

However, while Tully spoke during the meeting on the audit findings, the district has not released the audit.

The Gazette asked for a copy of the audit Thursday from district spokesperson Matt Leon, who said he did not have it. 

“The report from Marvin & Co. went directly to the Board,” he said. “I do not have a copy of it. If you would like to receive it, please submit a FOIL [Freedom of Information Law] request to the school district.”

The next day, on Friday, Oct. 8, the Gazette sent the school district a Freedom of Information Law request for the audit. The district had not responded to our request at the time this publication went to press on Oct. 12.

Leon also said the district has not received a bill from Marvin & Co. for its work. However, The Gazette obtained the engagement letter the district signed with the company, which states the hourly rate based on the employee involved. 

The breakdown of the hourly rates are: 

  • Director- $255 – $280
  • Manager/Principal- $115 – $255
  • Senior Assurance Associate- $80 – $100
  • Assurance Associate- $60 – $80

The capital project, which voters approved in February, will be completed in phases over the next few years, Leon said. 

Roof work at Niskayuna High School is expected to begin in the spring or summer of 2022. Around that time site work at the high school will take place, as will infrastructure work at the elementary schools.

“We have been working with teachers and administrators on the renovation and expansion as part of the reconfiguration and academic space enhancements at Iroquois Middle School and are planning to submit plans to the State Education Department for the Iroquois renovations/expansion and Iroquois and Rosendale site work this winter,” Leon said. “Following that we will begin a similarly robust and inclusive process for the Van Antwerp renovation, expansion and site work design.’

During the Tuesday meeting, the board also hired Turner Construction as the construction manager for the project. The resolution to hire the construction company does not state place a value on that contract, but does note that the company did not submit the lowest bid. 

“Although Turner was not the lowest bidder, the committee felt that the team that will be assigned to Niskayuna best demonstrated their ability to work collaboratively with contractors and district leadership, including a clear communication plan that encompassed all stakeholders, the ability to keep to the project timeline and work to solve any potential issues that may arise,” the resolution states. “The committee also felt their national presence would be beneficial in a time of supply chain disruptions and labor shortages. Turner also has established educational programs that our students could take advantage of.” 

A committee to oversee the project was also formed and consists of the superintendent, three members of the Board of Education, the Director of Facilities, the Director of Business & Finance, a member of the administrative unit, a representative from King & King, and a representative from Turner Construction. 

Leon said the committee will meet at least monthly to hear about how the project is going and review documents that will go before the board for approval, Leon said.

Categories: News, Schenectady County, Your Niskayuna

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