Cape school board approves budget changes to add $746,598 in revenue

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Cape Girardeau school board approved changes to the district budget Monday to include an additional $746,598 in revenue -- interest that had not been paid on investments dating back to June 2004.

Misty Clifton, director of finance, said that "on the bank's side," the account was somehow miscoded from interest bearing to non-interest bearing, and the district "never recognized" the mistake.

The former director of finance, Brenda McCowan, was placed on administrative leave Dec. 5, and she later resigned. Superintendent Dr. David Scala's contract was terminated effective Dec. 19.

A Bank of America representative recently noticed the mistake and informed Clifton.

The windfall covers the district's loss of $700,000 stemming from a mistake in calculating the tax levy earlier in the year.

The extra money does not equate to a net gain for the district. While revenue increased by $746,598 from the added interest, it also decreased by nearly $1.6 million, because the sale of the Schultz school will not be finalized this fiscal year. Overall, the budget was amended to decrease revenue by $475,050.

Meanwhile, expenditures increased by $766,149, mainly to account for renovations to the Alternative Education Center and metal buildings at the junior high.

Clifton was hired Nov. 5, and a budget prepared by her was approved by the board Nov. 19. She said that as she was preparing the budget, the discussion about renovations was "still in the early stages," and there was "uncertainty as to the exact costs."

Upgrades to the metal buildings at the junior high, which will eventually house the maintenance department and the Boys and Girls Club, will cost an estimated $204,000. Moving the Industrial Technology department from one of the metal buildings to the main campus will cost an estimated $300,000. The board is currently seeking bids for both projects.

At the meeting Monday, the board voted to cancel having an additional audit completed for the year that ended June 30. In December, the board voted to hire the auditing firm Larson Allen, but debated about the cost and benefit Monday.

Board member Paul Nenninger said he thinks the district "needs to provide the best foundation possible for the new superintendent" and said that "with the volume of mistakes" discovered he "couldn't vote for not doing it."

Kyle McDonald said Clifton was "doing a good job of finding errors." Laura Sparkman argued the auditors would only look at a random sample of entries, and said "they are not going to go through every sample in our books ... I know what you are wanting, but you are not going to get that."

An audit by the firm Beussink, Hey, Roe, Seabaugh and Stroder LLC released in November reported payments of nearly $2.5 million being made but never recorded and the district spending more than was budgeted in two funds.

Board members and interim superintendent Pat Fanger, however, have consistently said the district's finances are back on the right track.

"I'm very confident that things are under control," board member Martha Hamilton said in January.

335-6611, extension 123

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