OPSB president Jerry Hicks.JPG

The Ouachita Parish School Board realized a surplus of some $2.5 million its general fund for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020, a recent audit shows.

Auditors cited the School Board for a handful of findings, including one that showed some irregularities among the school system’s expenditures of special education grant funds.

Allen, Green & Williamson, certified public accountants in Monroe, performed the audit of the School Board’s finances for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

The state Legislative Auditor’s Office released the audit report on Monday. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in delays of the release of audit reports for many governmental entities.

General fund revenues totaled some $147.6 million while the fund’s expenditures reached some $144 million. After all transfers, the School Board realized a surplus of some $2.5 million, raising its fund balance to some $23.2 million.

“It’s good to have money,” said School Board President Jerry Hicks. “We have a lot of projects coming down the pipe. We have to take care of it wisely.”

A report prepared by the School Board’s business director, Regina Mekus, indicated the School Board’s general fund revenues rose by some $4.8 million during the fiscal year thanks to increased ad valorem tax collections.

The School Board’s general fund, or main operating fund, is supported mostly by state Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) funding, which is a complicated formulate allocating money for each student enrolled in the school system. The School Board’s expenditures also rose because of state pay raises mandated through MFP.

As of June 30, 2020, the School Board had $126.8 million in bonds outstanding.

Meanwhile, auditors found several irregularities while testing 30 payroll disbursements through special education grants.

For example, 10 disbursements did not have supervisor approval; one employee’s state raised was not calculated consistently as other employees’ state raise; one employee was underpaid until after the fiscal year; and one employee was underpaid until before the fiscal year ended.

“In testing a sample of four internal service charges, it was noted that two charges to the Special Education fund was not calculated correctly, which caused the program to be overcharged,” stated the audit report. “This appears to be systemic. A total of 65 disbursements were selected for testing in which 23 disbursements had exceptions.”

The audit report indicated the school system would review the program and correct the issues.

“It is management’s intent not only to be good stewards of taxpayer funds, but also to ensure funds are used to appropriately promote and increase student achievement,” stated the audit report.

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