State auditor questions Battle Ground school district spending

Erroneous payment will be returned to grant program

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Updated: March 19, 2012, 6:00 PM

 

A routine state audit found that Battle Ground Public Schools incorrectly charged almost $15,000 in employee severance expenses to a pot of federal money aimed at helping low-income students.

The period examined in the audit ended Aug. 31, 2011. In that time, the district spent nearly $1.5 million of Title I money, which is a federal program to assist low-income students who are at risk of not passing state achievement tests.

The district charged $14,710 in employee separation costs to the Title I account, which is not allowed under federal guidelines. The separation costs were payouts for unused sick or vacation days for two employees who retired, according to a district statement. But since those days also were accrued while performing duties not related to the low-income program, the severance pay can’t be charged to the federal program, the auditors found.

The mistake was “inadvertent and we have strengthened our internal controls to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said MaryBeth Lynn, assistant superintendent for finance and operations.

District finance officials now are required to sign off on separation payments to make sure they are charged to the proper account, according to a written response from the district to auditors.

The district will repay the amount to the federal grant program, Lynn said.

Jacques Von Lunen: 360-735-4515; jacques.vonlunen@columbian.com;http://www.twitter.com/col_schools.