Muscogee County School District receives 'clean' audit except for nutrition program

mrice@ledger-enquirer.comNovember 18, 2013 

The Muscogee County School District administration building is at 2960 Macon Road.

MIKE HASKEY — mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com Buy Photo

An audit has found the School Nutrition Program in the Muscogee County School District made several accounting mistakes last school year, but the problems were corrected in time for the system's overall financial statements to receive a "clean" report, the district's chief financial officer said Monday night.

CFO Sharon Adams told the school board during its monthly meeting that Robinson, Grimes and Company P.C. of Columbus found a "material weakness" in the nutrition program during fiscal year 2013.

"There were certain review procedures that were not implemented or completed," Adams said. "All those were corrected before we closed June 30. The financial statements are stated accurately. As you saw, we got a clean opinion in financial statements. Everything was corrected and reported."

No board members questioned the audit or Adams' report during the meeting. They accepted it unanimously.

In an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer before the meeting, Adams gave more details. The mistakes were about the meals that were served at schools, she said.

"I don't know if it was the number or the dollars," Adams said, "but the information that was submitted was incorrect throughout the year."

The mistakes weren't at a particular school but "across the board," Adams said, and was submitted to the Georgia Department of Education incorrectly.

"When the money was received, it was receipted to the wrong school," she said. "The money was there, but the offset was just wrong."

Asked how much money was involved, Adams said, "I have no idea because it was all fixed before we closed the year. It was classification errors."

This was the first time an audit found a material weakness in the five years Adams has been the district's CFO, she said.

"It concerns me that the reports weren't being monitored closely," Adams said. "That concerns me, but we've got steps put in place."

After the meeting, Superintendent David Lewis, whom the board hired in July from Polk County, Fla., emphasized that no money was missing and no employees were fired.

"When I found out the issue, I met with staff and took corrective action," Lewis said. "I'm confident we have controls in place going forward, including monitoring on a regular basis."

Also after the meeting, board chairman Rob Varner of District 5 expressed support for the administration's response.

"The reason you have external audits is so these mistakes are discovered," Varner said. "… The school district has put in place measures to ensure this type of problem doesn't come about again.

"But I think, more than anything, it's a reality of very large and complex organizations. Sometimes people make mistakes. The good news is the school district didn't lose a dime and we're now on a better path."

In other action Monday night in the Muscogee County Public Education Center, the board unanimously approved the following items, with Athavia "A.J." Senior of District 3 the lone member absent:

• Contracting with Holbrook Service Co. Inc. of Columbus for $1,292,399 to fix the moisture problem at Double Churches Middle School.

Holbrook was the low bidder among the four opened Friday. R&G Mechanical of Phenix City ($1,303,537), Smith-Raymond Co. Inc. of Columbus ($1,323,623) and Turner Plumbing Heating & Air of Columbus ($1,331,492) also bid on the project. The administration had estimated in the report it presented at last week's work session the project would cost about $1.8 million.

The project's architect is Peach Engineering LLC of Columbus. The work includes replacing air conditioning units with new units that dehumidify as well as cool the air. The work also includes installing a new automatic control system.

• Granting a 30-by-30-foot easement at Reese Road Leadership Academy to BellSouth Telecommunications Inc., doing business as AT&T Georgia. AT&T will pay for relocating the chain-link fence around the easement. The board approved a similar easement at Blackmon Road Middle School in July 2008.

• Hiring of Tracy Fox as the district's risk management director. She will replace the retiring Marie Stringfellow. Fox has been the guidance director at Veterans Memorial Middle School since August 2007. According to her resume, her previous work experience includes: guidance counselor, Russell County Middle School, 2002-07; part-time collections agent, TSYS, 2000-01; banquet coordinator, The Estate, 1998-2000; and patrol officer, Columbus Police Department, 1995-98.

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