State auditor finds issues with Wahluke schools accounting

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MATTAWA — The Washington State Auditor’s Office has found that the Wahluke School District failed to properly manage several key federal programs or fully account for roughly $115,000 in salaries in the 2017-18 school year.

According to a report from the auditor’s office, the district’s “internal controls were not adequate to ensure compliance” with the U.S. Department of Education’s Title I program, which is designed “to improve the teaching and learning” of at-risk children “in areas with high concentration of low-income families.”

In the 2017-18 school year, Wahluke received around $597,000 in federal funds under the Title I program, of which $390,000 went for salaries, according to the auditor’s report.

According to data from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) in Olympia, the Wahluke School District had a budget of $29.4 million for the 2017-18 school year.

The state auditor found that the district failed to adequately keep time cards for employees in the program, properly determine whether or not contractors were eligible under federal rules, track graduation data for students in the program, and otherwise fail to keep proper records for students and staff in the program.

“The District’s non-compliance with grant requirements can jeopardize future federal funding and may lead to the District needing to return federal funds to the grantor,” the report said.

The State Auditor recommended the district “strengthen internal controls,” improve staff training and the retention of documents important to the program.

The district did not dispute the auditor’s findings, and, in fact, agreed with them.

“The Wahluke School District concurs with the audit findings,” the district said as part of its response. “We recognize inadequate internal controls to ensure compliance.”

The district said it has already started working harder to ensure potential contractors meet federal eligibility requirements, graduation rates will be tracked and reported better, and “an effective process” is implemented to track time for employees employed either completely or partially in the program.

In a separate report, the State Auditor also found the Wahluke School District did not accurately keep track of the number of meals it served to students under the Federal School Breakfast, School Lunch and Summer Food Service programs.

The auditor recommend the district “establish and follow” tighter internal controls over meal reporting, the district agreed with the auditor’s office.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

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