Belen

The Belen School District received good news from the state it got an “A” for its annual audit.

“We received the best rating they could give,” said Brad Phillips, executive director of operations. “The audit only found six items we needed to fix, but we had already fixed them before we received the state report.”

One of the items had existed for many years but had been remedied in January.

“For 30 years, the district has paid the year-round employees their first check of the fiscal year, which covered the first two weeks of the new contract, on July 5. This practice, in fact, caused the district to pay the employees in advance of services rendered,” Phillips said of the district’s practice of paying employees twice a month, on the fifth and 20th.

“We have been looking for a way to fix the problem without causing a problem for our employees. It wasn’t until this year, when the unit value brought in additional funds, that we were able to give raises to year-round employees, which allowed us to … shift their last paycheck of the year from June 20 to July 5.”

The audit by Gary E. Gaylord LTD of Albuquerque found a situation in which a gasoline credit card had been stolen and charges were made to it before the employee to whom the card was assigned reported it missing.

“The employee assigned the card did not use it often, and, when we discovered unreported charges being made on it, we notified the employee. It was then the card was discovered missing,” Phillips said. “As a result, excess charges of $320 had been made to the card by an unknown individual.”

Because of this incident, the district has established new procedures to correct the situation.

“Another item found by the auditor regarded the district not having a leave accrual policy,” Phillips said. “We have a procedure we use, but it is not documented in policy, for how sick and annual vacation leave is accrued. The audit said any form of compensation to employees of the district should be officially approved by the board of education. We are in the process of creating the policy.”

One bookkeeping item was pointed out in the audit. The district deposited special grant funds in the student activity funds line item when the grant was restricted for a specific purpose to en-hance the instructional program.

“The grant was for $4,000. We put it in a different account line item than we were supposed to,” Phillips said. “The money was not misused, it was just recorded incorrectly.

“We disagreed with the audit finding saying that the amount in question is immaterial to the overall financial position of the district, which is $40 million, but we concurred with the auditor’s recommendation to create a unique line item number for the funds.”

Another thing found by the audit was in regard to the Medicaid referral procedures. A sampling of Medicaid reimbursements revealed 16 percent of the students receiving benefits did not have signed physician referrals.

“We argue with the audit finding,” Phillips said. “However, the state requirements, not federal requirements, have been and continue to be a point of contention in ongoing litigation with the state.”

The district has taken steps to remedy the situation, according to Phillips, by carefully following procedures in the Medicaid reimbursement program.

The final item cited was a lack of details in the minutes of school board meetings.

It said “the minutes of all of the board of education meetings need to be expanded in order to record a complete and accurate record of the subjects discussed and acted upon by the board.”

“We had not had completed information in such areas as accounts payable, board adjustments and out-of-state travel,” Phillips said. “Rather than just stating that these items had been approved, the audit directed us to attach the information that is in the school board packets.”

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Jane Moorman