Auditor's office faults Ridgefield district

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

Published:

Updated: April 8, 2013, 6:28 PM

 

The Ridgefield School District did not comply with federal grant requirements for its free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch programs, according to the Washington State Auditor’s Office.

An audit report found the school district failed to properly verify that the families of children receiving subsidized meals met income guidelines during the 2010-2011 school year.

Instead of reviewing “error-prone” applications — from households reporting incomes within a $100 per-month range of federal poverty guidelines — the school district randomly selected applications for additional scrutiny. The school district also didn’t perform a secondary evaluation of the applications to ensure they were accurate.

By not following the verification rules, the district may have received federal dollars for households that wouldn’t have qualified for free and reduced-priced meals under federal requirements, the report states.

The district received $74,278 for the breakfast program and $261,913 for the lunch program in the 2011-2012 school year.

The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction allows districts to verify that applications for reduced-cost meals are accurate in two ways.

Districts may randomly review 3 percent of the applications if the previous year’s nonresponse rate — the number of households that didn’t respond to the district’s request for income verification — was less than 20 percent.

But if the nonresponse rate is 20 percent or higher, districts have to review applications that are considered a high risk for containing errors.

Because the number of households that didn’t respond was exactly 20 percent, the school district randomly selected applications, rather than focusing on ones that could have contained errors, the district said.

The OSPI Child Nutrition Department is supposed to perform a second review, but the error was “not caught at the state level for verification,” the district wrote in its response.

The district said it would provide more training for its data coordinator and director of business services at workshops provided by OSPI this summer.