Auditor finds no fault with school district

"South Whidbey School District came out clean in a state audit report issued March 23 by the Washington State Auditor's Office.School district accounts were audited for the period of Sept. 1, 1999 through Aug. 21, 2000. The audit concludes: The district complied with state laws and regulations and its own policies and procedures. We did not identify any conditions significant enough to report as findings.The final report puts to rest the one issue the State Auditor's office has had with South Whidbey in recent years. It centered on teacher education credits which lead to pay increases. Last summer, the district faced big financial problems when an audit showed that some of the credits were not on file. There needed to be a record of the credits to substantiate pay increases covered by the state.Dr. Martin Laster, district superintendent, updated the school board on the credits issue at Monday's board meeting. He reminded the board that the initial audit showed the state had overpaid South Whidbey in teacher compensation by $100,000 in 1997-98 and $160,000 in 1998-99 due to the credits problem. The state threatened to reduce future funding by those amounts to make up for the overpayments.When Laster became superintendent last summer he led negotiations with the state audit team in which it was agreed the credits for 1999-2000 would be audited, and the results applied to all three years. A major effort was made to urge all teachers to provide the district proof of the credits they had earned.It was a gamble on the findings, Laster said. Had the 1999-2000 audit followed the trend of the previous two years, the total liability could have been as high as $520,000, he said.But teachers rallied to the cause and largely supplied the necessary proof of credits. Everybody responded, Laster said. The 1999-2000 audit found slightly over $15,000 in unsubstantiated credits, resulting in a three-year total of only $47,000.It'll make a huge difference in how we approach this budget cycle, Laster said.Board members complimented Laster for his efforts. Thank you, said Barb Schneeman, saying Laster radically changed the district's relations with the state auditor's office.The March 23 auditor's report stated the district was in compliance in all other areas from Sept. 1, 1999 to Aug. 31, 2000. "

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