New Suffolk makes new hire to handle district finances

01/15/2014 9:00 AM |
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Newly appointed business manager Babette Cornine (left) at her first New Suffolk board meeting Tuesday night.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Newly appointed business manager Babette Cornine (left) at her first New Suffolk board meeting Tuesday night.

Less than a month after the release of a state comptroller’s audit that found several issues in the handling of finances within the New Suffolk Common School District’s budget preparation, as well as the resignation of a longtime treasurer — the district has hired a new part-time employee to take on managing the school’s finances.

And she has a familiar face.

Current Greenport school board member Babette Cornine was appointed to fill the district’s newly created business manager position at New Suffolk’s regularly scheduled board meeting Tuesday night. She’ll be taking on the responsibilities of the district treasurer, and them some, officials said.

Ms. Cornine said she held the business manager position for the Greenport School District from 1991 to 2006, handling many of the district’s financial obligations including payroll and reporting finances to the state.

She said she has also held a position as a customer service representative at Bridgehampton National Bank.

“I think there are some things you never forget,” Ms. Cornine said of the skills she had learned at Greenport schools. “Every school district is the same, and even though this is a smaller district they still have to do all the same things as a larger district does as far as reporting to the state.”

Superintendent Michael Comanda, who also serves as superintendent of Greenport School District — at least until after he steps down at the end of this school year — said although Ms. Cornine oversees his position in the Greenport school district, he does not feel there are any conflicts of interest at play, as each district has its “own unique setup.”

“I think it’s actually advantageous because we have an established work relationship,” he said. “I see no reason why this can’t be successful.”

On the findings of the comptroller’s audit, Tony Dill, who prepares the school’s annual budget in his role as school board president, said “there are ways in which we label certain items that are not consistent with the rules and regulations.”

“When you really understand what’s going on here, it’s very technical stuff. They are not saying, ‘No you had no business spending that money,’ they are saying, ‘No, you shouldn’t have called it this,’ Mr. Dill said.

In Ms. Cornine’s newly created business manager role, district officials said they hope to gain a better understanding of such rules and regulations.

Ms. Cornine started the position Jan. 1, already instituting some changes to the way finances are formatted in monthly reports, listing out expenses rather than lumping them together, for example — following recommendations from the comptroller’s office.

And although she said she feels knowledgeable in the preparation of finances for the state after her time at Greenport, she added “you can never say you know everything, because everything changes so quickly.”

To ensure the district’s monetary reports are in line with technical reporting aspects deemed legal by the state, Ms. Cornine said she will be attending a state-run finance training course, as well as meetings at BOCES to learn from other school business officials.

“We were trying to find someone who had a significant amount of experience in accounting,” Mr. Dill said. “She knows all the fundamentals, and came with suggestions for modifying things in ways that can be done.”

Mr. Dill said there was interest in the business manager position from several candidates.

“I think it is a good find for us,” Mr. Dill said. “She is encouraging.”

Ms. Cornine’s current term will run until June 30, and she will be receiving $6,500 for her time, according to the meeting agenda.

Mr. Dill said the salary is higher than that paid to the district’s outgoing treasurer, Diana Foster; but that Ms. Cornine will take on additional responsibilities including the state education’s department’s annual financial report, which the school had hired an outside accounting firm to prepare (using the treasurer’s financial records) in the past, “costing the better part of $1,000 alone,” Mr. Dill said.

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