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Schools audit comes through almost spotless

Having been stung on previous financial audits, the South Whidbey School District received a solid bill of health from the state auditor’s office for the period Sept. 1, 2003 through Aug. 31, 2004.

State auditor Sadie Armijo said the South Whidbey School District audit was “very clean.”

“We did not issue any findings. It is a big improvement over the previous audit,” said Armijo, who participated in the district’s audit.

School administrators were pleased with the results, which were made public this week. Superintendent Bob Brown said the audit report was good news.

“The credit really goes to Ben Thomas, the district’s business manager,” he said. “He has done a wonderful of job balancing our numbers and helping to build a fund balance.”

The district’s fund balance — which essentially works like a reserve account for the district — for 2003-04 was $265,000. Brown said the total is still “embarrassingly low,” but is on the increase. The target fund balance for the end of 2004-05 is $450,000.

The goal is to read $1 million by 2008-09.

While auditors did not find any conditions significant enough to report as findings, they did note instances in which the district was short on cash and had to borrow operating money from the state.

The district had a cash flow deficit in March 2004 that necessitated an interfund loan and an advance from the state. The report says cash flow deficit continued in December 2004, requiring the district to borrow $500,000 from the Island County Treasurer.

Still, the borrowing was not a strike against the district’s financial record.

“We did not issue a finding related to the cash flow deficit because it did not affect the continuing operation of the school district,” Armijo said.

School administrators said both loans were paid back with interest. The loan from the county treasurer was used to cover payroll for the month of December, which is paid to staff and teachers on their last working day in mid December, rather than on the last day of the month as is typical the rest of the year. State funds that go to payroll do not get to the district until the last day of the month.

Findings in the last year’s audit report included the theft of $10,000 by a district employee and the use of Title I federal grant funds.

The current report states that the district “complied with state laws and its own polices.” Areas examined included petty cash, charge, accounts, cash receipts and revenues, ASB funds, payroll, purchases of goods and services and facility rental revenue.

Other areas of scrutiny included deposit and investment of public funds, timely deposits, issue of restricted funds, required financial schedules, budgeting, enrollment reporting, ethics and conflict of interest laws, Open Meeting Act, allowable expenditures and transportation budget.

The district is audited once a year. While auditors don’t examine every portion of financial activities during the audit, the areas examined were those considered the highest risk for non compliance, misappropriation or misuse. Other areas are audited on a rotating basis.

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