When I became superintendent one of the first things that I noticed is how often school district’s in Pennsylvania are audited. The districts are not being audited because of perceived wrong doing, rather State law requires these audits. The audits are conducted to protect the taxpayer and the State (which gives RASD well over half of the money for the budget). There are two types of audits. First there is the State audit which occurs every other year. The second is a “local audit” of the financials. This audit is paid for by the school district and is done by an accounting firm every year. The State audit is larger in scope than the “local audit” which concentrates on strictly the financials. Both audit reports are public record and are discussed at public meetings.
The State audit has a dual purpose. First, the auditors will have items that the auditor general will want to focus on for all school districts. For example, two years ago the auditors focused on technology and how secure the school district’s network was from outside influences. The auditors wanted to make sure that all staff and students signed an “acceptable use” form; they looked for our protocols for vendors to access the network to conduct updates on programs that we run; and finally, they looked at the filtering process the school district uses to make sure “bad content” from the internet stays away from the students. Two years ago, the auditors also concentrated on school safety and looked at procedures the district has in place to monitor who is in the school at any given time. The second area of focus is items the auditors will review every year. These are items such as teacher certification (is all of the paperwork in order for every teacher), attendance (are the policies and procedures of the district, and state law, being followed), transportation (how many students are assigned to buses, the mileage of the buses compared with the actual amount of money paid to the bus contractor. The auditors also review clearances for all bus drivers to make sure they are up to date.), payroll (reviewed to make sure the school district is withholding the proper amount for social security, retirement, etc), and purchase orders (to assure that all applicable laws and statutes are followed concerning the purchase of items for the school district).
The auditor will classify any problems into two categories: “findings” or “observations”. Observations are simply something that they want to see addressed before the next audit. These are usually not a serious problem. Findings, on the other hand, are a more serious problem and require the school district to address the problem as soon as possible. The school district’s last audit had no findings or observations. The State auditors usually will spend up to three months conducting their audit.
The second kind of audit (the local audit) is paid for by the school district and looks strictly at the “bookkeeping” of the school district. The auditors will review all of the financial data to make sure money is being spent from the correct account or credited to the correct account. The best visual would be of someone coming to look at your personal checkbook and making sure all of the numbers add up. This audit will take 4-6 weeks to conduct and is conducted every year. I hope this blog entry sheds some light onto all of the controls in place when it comes to the operation of the school district. The most current State audit can be found here and the local audit here.