South Point expects good audit

Published 10:47 am Thursday, February 12, 2009

SOUTH POINT — It was a challenge Tresa Baker was willing to take. When she became treasurer for the South Point Schools a year ago, the district was facing a serious financial crisis as it had been declared inauditable for years 2006 and 2007.

Now the state has declared that the district is now auditable for the current fiscal year of 2008 and Baker expects that to go smoothly.

“I don’t anticipate any real issues,” Baker said.

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That is coupled with a letter from Jeff Jordan of the Ohio Department of Education telling the district that it is no long a high risk as far as its grants administration.

While it was labeled high risk, the district had to submit documentation to the ODE for all expenditures that came out of federal grants.

“Typically, you get an advance,” Baker said. “We had to prove we had been spending dollars correctly. That is a big deal.”

Baker said the district met with staff from the auditor’s office in January to review the work for the 2008 audit. According to that meeting, the audit could be ready by June, the treasurer said.

“They are not on the inauditable list for fiscal 2008. That is encouraging. That doesn’t mean they will have a completely clean audit,” Steve Faulkner, spokesman for the auditor’s office, said.

“It is encouraging that the school district is making improvements on its financial reporting and the purpose of our audit is to determine that. … We don’t anticipate South Point being declared unauditable”

A report released Dec. 24, 2007, by the office of state auditor Mary Taylor stated there was more than a half-million dollars in questioned costs that were improperly charged to Title I and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act programs.

That December report focused on fiscal years 2005 and 2006 and listed 24 citations either for non compliance, material weakness or questioned costs.

This was putting future state and federal funding to the school at risk.

That audit led to the resignation of the district’s then treasurer Dan McDavid weeks after its release. Baker was hired to replace McDavid in February 2008.

Then in November 2008, Taylor released an audit for fiscal year 2007 that stated local school officials may have mismanaged more than $62,000 in federal grant funds, overpaid one employee’s insurance premiums and had numerous instances of sloppy record keeping.

Although some of the blame was put on the shoulders of McDavid, state officials said at the time the school board needed to keep closer tabs on spending.

Getting the district’s financial health back has been a time-consuming effort, Baker says.

“I spent many, many hours here,” she said. “The most challenging part … having to go to the board and let them know what they did have in the bank. They had been given information they had funds in the general funds that were not there,” she said.

“That was stressful. It was a significant amount that had to be adjusted out of the general fund into other funds. The ladies I work with here in the office, they worked really hard through some trying times.”

Baker, who is a CPA, came to South Point after 17 years as treasurer for the Fairland school district.

“I took it on because I knew it would be a challenge. We had always had good audits at Fairland,” she said. “I feel like we have things to be a normal typical school district. The people here are all anxious to move away from where we were a couple of years ago. The educators and support staff, they want to be able to move forward.”