Board member Joyce Morley also expressed frustration at how long it’s taken to begin the audit, but wondered whether it was necessary to contract with an outside agency. Like Hill, she said she’s happy to get the audit done.
The audit of spending so far will begin in January, with the final report expected in late June. There will be an additional audit once the district has received and spent the rest of its federal funding.
A state audit of the fiscal year ending in June 2021 suggested that almost $1 million in federal pandemic aid could have been inaccurately documented or spent without appropriate approval based on an evaluation of a sample of expenditures.
Three human resources and payroll employees in the sample received bonuses totaling $23,000 without board approval or documentation of additional work performed, the audit found. Several other employees out of the random sample of 60 were found to have received bonuses they were not eligible for or for which there was no documentation.
These problems could result in “unnecessary financial strains and shortages” for the district, the report said, if federal or state education officials were to ask the district to return some of the funds.
An outside investigation commissioned by the school board revealed similar problems.
District officials told auditors that they misunderstood “ambiguous” early guidance about how to spend the money. The investigation commissioned by board members, which spanned a similar time frame, concluded that employees were not following district procedures when it came to disbursing bonuses.
Concerns about the district’s finances were one of the reasons board members in a split vote gave to fire Cheryl Watson-Harris from her role as superintendent earlier this year. Properly managing pandemic aid has been one of interim Superintendent Vasanne Tinsley’s top priorities.
“We’re expecting a great process here,” said board Chair Vickie Turner about the forthcoming audit. “The outcome will reveal what we need to know.”
The district’s audit committee will meet virtually at 2 p.m. Wednesday to discuss more details about the scope of the audit.