By Mary Wilson
Some Grandview community members are speaking out against the Grandview CSD-4 School District and requesting signatures for a state audit.
The petition is asking for registered voters in the Grandview C-4 School District to consider signing for a state audit to potentially uncover over $200,000 that was written off by the district’s auditors, as well as raising some questions in regards to the turf installation and MAP scores.
“I think it is important that the school district keeps close track of the patron’s money in this district,” said former school board member Donald Fisher.
The school district underwent a state audit at year-end in June of 2004. At that time, the state auditors found no material weaknesses and no misuse of funds. The 2004 audit was the result of a petition at that time, as well.
“That audit cost the district just under $20,000, not including staff involvement,” said Ann Marie Cook, Assistant Superintendent of Finance & Operations for the district. “We are now working with a completely different set of people than who were here in 2004.”
For the 2011 fiscal year, the Board of Education approved DSWA to audit the district’s financials. While the audit was clean, DSWA did identify some material weakness. This could have been a deficiency in internal controls, or a possibility of a misstatement of funds.
“We were not doing complete monthly bank reconciliations for all of our accounts,” said Cook. “All of that was reconciled by the time it went before the board for approval.”
As part of the 2011 audit, DSWA did find and report a $221,524 prior adjustment, and brought that to the district’s attention. However, per the scope of the audit that was being performed, DSWA did not go in and identify what exactly that money was as part of their regular audit work.
DSWA was then separately contracted out to further investigate the un-accounted for funds. After the September, 2012 board meeting, Advocate staff reported that the school district’s current process for handling outstanding checks at the end of the year, as well as outstanding transactions after year-end processes, were what was creating the problem. There were no missing funds as a result of the material weakness.
“DSWA made recommendations to us that we needed to change our monthly processes and make improvements as needed, and we’ve done that,” said Cook.
“I would like somebody else besides DSWA to look at it,” said Fisher. “I stated that at the board meeting, and I was turned down.”
According to district officials, the request for an outside audit was on board agenda in Februrary, 2012. At that meeting, it was decided to add the item to the March workshop. At that time, DSWA came out and presented to the school board.
“After their presentation to the board, there was a time for questions, comments or concerns,” said Board Secretary Kathy Meyers. “There were no comments made at that time. The board did not direct or deny moving forward with another agency.”
Those behind the petition feel that there needs to be a more in-depth audit. On whether or not Fisher hopes to uncover that $221,000 with a state audit, he said, “basically, and also to see if there are any other problems.”
Another issue is the fact that the district had $1,000,000 of bond money left over and decided to use it to install artificial turf on the GHS football field. According to petitioners, the school district chose to forego a potential $200,000 NFL grant to help defray the cost of the project.
The bond project was originally for piping work to be done at Grandview Middle School. Phase one of the project was to replace the central core piping. After that work was completed, the workers replacing pipes noted that the piping in the “pods” of the school were not as deteriorated as they originally thought. At that time, the school district hired an independent company to test the pipes as well as a separate independent company to analyze the pipes. This determined that the piping did not need to be completely replaced and could be repaired, which then caused a significant reduction in the scope of the work as well as a significant reduction in the cost.
“I think it’s important that the school district keeps close track of the patron’s money in this district,” said Fisher. “The people that I’ve talked to are not happy with the way that the district was being run. They do not like the football field. They thought that the money could be better spent elsewhere.”
The district then held several open community input meetings, and ultimately the turf installation passed in a board vote of 4-3.
“Grant proposals for the NFL grant were due last December,” said Cook. “We were too late for that. If we waited another year, there was no guarantee that we would receive the grant. Because of this, the board of education decided to move forward with the project.”
In order for the state of Missouri to approve an audit of the Grandview school district’s finances, the petition must garner 1500 signatures.
“We’re right about halfway there,” said Fisher.
According to the school district, the implications of a state audit would be more than just the cost to the district.
“I imagine the cost of the audit would be similar to what it was in 2004, which was right around $20,000,” said Cook. “We would also be considering how much time our staff would need to devote to the audit. Their plates are full enough as it is, and this would pull them away from their regular work. The audit would also, I believe, cause a distraction or disruption to the district as a whole, especially when we’re trying to focus our efforts on positive things.”