News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, May 23, 2019
CSD Board reviews audit, background checks

by Tevlin Schuetz

The CSD Board reviewed feedback it received as part of the district’s audit during a meeting earlier this month. The audit was performed by James W. Wadman, CPA, of Ellsworth, and addressed the school administration’s financial practices for the fiscal year ending in 2018.

The audit identified three areas of concern, Union 76 Superintendent Chris Elkington said, which include general ledger account reconciliations, improper cash receipting and bank reconciliations.

According to the letter accompanying the full audit report, these areas constitute “material weaknesses,” which are defined as “a deficiency or a combination of deficiencies in internal control, such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the District’s financial statements will not be prevented, or detected or corrected, on a timely basis.”

Bank reconciliations were not completely accurate, according to the report, and required significant adjustments by the auditors.

Cash receipting was inconsistent during the fiscal year, according to the audit, which stated, “Almost all of the incoming cash receipts during the first part of the year were not properly receipted,” until a change in office personnel completely corrected the process from that point onward.

The audit noted that “significant progress has been made” during the past year in reconciliations. Elkington attributed this observation to changes in staff and additional training, which were factors confirmed in the audit report. The audit also identified the Board’s monthly finance meetings with the superintendent as being a means of increasing transparency, oversight of the school committee and of the level of detail being shared.

Elkington anticipates that continued staff training and work with the auditors should contribute to a dramatic reduction of the documented concerns with the 2018-19 audit. The administrative staff has already undergone specialized accounts training this past fall and winter, Elkington said, and reconciliations are now being done properly. The administration will also put policy and procedures in place for bank reconciliations to be reviewed at school board finance committee meetings in the coming year, he said.

“Are we thrilled about the audit? No,” Elkington said. “[But] I do expect that when we get next year’s audit, [we] are going to get a lot of positive feedback.”

Vetting volunteers

The Board also discussed the protocol for clearing volunteers for school activities and field trips, a process which involves background checks for potential red flags and criminal conduct which could raise concerns or disqualify a person from being a volunteer.

“What is the level that we dig into someone’s background? Right now for volunteers we do the basic state police background check. But if someone goes on an overnight field trip, then they have to go through the state system, which is the fingerprint system,” Elkington explained. “The question is: Does either of those systems guarantee knowing everything, and the answer is ‘no.’”

“Without fingerprints, the information you get is what people are found guilty of. With fingerprints, there is a bigger review, and you get a little more in-depth information. But it’s not all-encompassing,” he said.

Board member Darrell Williams asked for clarification: “If someone is fingerprinted, their information is only accurate up to the date they were fingerprinted?”

“Correct,” Elkington replied.

Elkington said the process of vetting volunteers is different from one town to the next. In other school districts close by, they are doing a combination of background checks and fingerprinting, while some aren’t doing any checks at all. In more socio-economically affluent areas of the state, they perform fingerprint checks for every volunteer, he said.

Upcoming meetings

The district budget meeting will be held on Monday, June 3, at 7 p.m., in the high school gymnasium.

The CSD Board’s next regular meeting follows on Tuesday, June 4, at 5:30 p.m., in the high school cafeteria.