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May 20, 2013

New Castle Schools: District answers two state audit findings

NEW CASTLE — New Castle school district administration answered two of the findings in a state auditor general’s preliminary report.

The audit, which has not yet been finalized, covered the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years. The preliminary report also contains an observation, which the district answered.

An observation is not as serious as a finding.

According to the Pennsylvania auditor general’s website, auditors establish whether school districts received the state subsidies and reimbursements to which they were entitled, and whether state laws and regulations were followed. They also determine whether teachers and administrators are properly certified for the positions they hold.

The findings are:

•Improper student activity fund practices and lack of documentation.

The requirements are that all student clubs and organizations, revenue-generating or not, must have by-laws, officers and meeting minutes, and documents must be maintained by the district activities director with copies to the administration.

In answering that finding, the district noted the activities treasurer and director are meeting with all approved clubs and activities and providing written guidelines for them to follow regarding by-laws, officers, minutes and student signatures for authorization to pay expenses.

A policy amendment also requires that student accounts with no activity will be closed after three years and remaining funds will be transferred to the student council fund.

Joe Ambrosini, the district’s business manager, told the school board there was no misappropriation of funds in any student activity accounts. However, the auditors found checks written without board minutes that indicated those checks had been authorized to be released.

Also, not every club had by-laws or officers, he said, adding, “It’s a very easy one for us to fix.”

•Lack of operational guidelines and parameters resulted in internal control weaknesses.

Ambrosini said this finding concerned an $8,000 payment from the umbrella fund for basketball championship rings from Josten’s. The district was required to solicit three quotes for a purchase over $4,000 and failed to do so.

In answering the finding, Ambrosini said he recognized the oversight and noted that is not a normal practice of the business office. He pointed out Josten’s is a long-standing district vendor with national recognition as a leader in the industry and has provided such products to the district for many years without conflicts.

Ambrosini said that since that audit year, the amount required for soliciting three price quotes changed in 2012-13 and was raised to $10,000.

•The auditor general’s observation concerned a certification eligibility deficiency. The information was not detailed and no names were provided by the district.

Now-retired superintendent George J. Gabriel responded to the observation by letter that the superintendent will be working closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Education Bureau of Certification for further clarification and guidance in the matter.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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