December 27, 1995 in City

State Audit Criticizes District 81 Record-Keeping Some Overpayments Will Have To Be Repaid, But Amount Is In Dispute

Carla K. Johnson Staff writer
 

State auditors scolded Spokane School District on Tuesday for botching special education paperwork and routinely gathering money for students who weren’t strictly eligible.

The auditors estimated the district has received overpayments of $372,201 over five years.

District officials admit paperwork on hundreds of students with disabilities was out of date but concede owing only about $14,000.

Auditors cited other accounting flaws in the annual audit report released Tuesday:

Skimpy controls over a cash register at district headquarters made the chances of embezzlement more likely.

Incomplete inventory of furniture, computers and other equipment opened the door to possible theft or misuse.

However, auditors found no evidence of theft or embezzlement.

No fraud is suspected in regard to the special education records.

“We’re not saying anyone deliberately falsified or evaded filing of records,” said state Auditor Brian Sonntag. “I don’t believe that would ever be the case. We’re just saying that the documents need to exist.”

The district receives federal and state money for special education based on the number of students with disabilities it reports.

To be eligible, such a student must have up-to-date records, specifically a “needs assessment” every three years and an “individualized education plan” every year.

Poor record-keeping was most obvious with transient high school students, district officials said. Problems turned up in the records of homeless students at Crosswalk and at North Central High School.

In those cases, the district tried to get services started quickly for new students, letting paperwork lag behind.

The state superintendent of public instruction will determine how much money the district should repay.

“Only four students received services who shouldn’t have,” said District 81 Superintendent Gary Livingston.

“We will have to pay on those four kids. The dollar amount is clearly up in the air.”

In response to the audit, the district has changed its cash-register procedures, is updating its inventory system and will put an employee in charge of double-checking special education records, Livingston said.

, DataTimes


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email