State auditor: Evergreen schools didn't properly verify income of lunch program applicants

About $4,400 of $5M wrongly received

By Jacques Von Lunen, Columbian staff writer

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The state auditor has found that Evergreen Public Schools did not adequately verify the income of parents applying for the free and reduced food program for their students.

The program provides money for free and reduced-price meals for low-income students. Family income must be under certain thresholds.

In a report released Monday, the state agency determined that the district received about $4,400 in excess federal money. The district received about $950,000 for the breakfast program and $4.1 million for the school lunch program in the 2010-11 school year.

Each year, districts must randomly check some of the applications and verify that the income reported by families is correct. State school officials provide instructions to school districts on how to verify program eligibility.

The state audit found that the district made an incorrect eligibility determination on approximately 15 percent of the applications.

When calculating a student's family income, the district excluded overtime pay from total earnings. It adjusted total earnings shown on pay stubs based on the applicant's say-so. In one instance, the district used total hours reported on the pay stub and not earnings.

The district, in its response published along with the audit finding, said it will change its verification process to avoid the identified errors.