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Joplin School District receives "fair" rating in recently conduc - KOAM TV 7

Joplin School District receives "fair" rating in recently conducted state audit

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A recently conducted state audit gives the Joplin School District a "fair" rating, and several areas to improve on.

Last summer, citizens began a petition for the audit due to raised concerns regarding the spending of the high volume of donations the district received following the 2011 Joplin tornado.

The district held a press conference this afternoon in response to the findings.

District officials say the audit findings show no evidence of fraud or misappropriation of the nearly $8.5 million in post-tornado donations.

"We obviously have some areas that we need to improve upon, but I think mostly when you look at the findings, it's mostly about processes and procedures," said superintendent CJ Huff.

"We found practices not up to par," said Henry Otto, deputy state auditor. "We did not find evidence of fraud or embezzlement, none of that was discovered. We do say that you need to improve accounting controls and procedures, and the way you handle cash because with poor controls, it invites the opportunity for someone to take advantage of the system. We didn't necessarily see that, but it certainly makes it more likely that it could occur."

One of the biggest areas of concern is the district's current financial condition.

The general fund declined from about $16 million in July of 2011, to a projected $4.6 million in June 2015.

District officials expect the financial condition to worsen before beginning an upward trend in fiscal year 2016.

The district's long-term goal is to return to an operating fund balance of 25 percent.

"We're still tracking that very, very closely," Huff said. "Once we bottom out, once all of our disaster recovery efforts are complete, then we'll start rebounding. That's been a part of the plan all along."

The audit calls for changes to the district's policy on minimum qualification requirements when hiring district employees, which the district plans to implement in this spring's hiring season.

A district-wide inventory and summer school policy changes are also recommended by the audit.

District officials plan to address all recommendations before the state auditor's office returns to examine their progress, within the next 90 days.

"None of the areas identified in the audit are areas that we feel like we can't meet those expectations," Huff said.

State audit officials say meeting those expectations is do-able in a timely fashion.

"Some of their purchasing procedures can be dealt with almost immediately," said Kelly Davis, audit manager.

"As they make these improvements and follow the recommendations, I would say going forward, it would be more than a fair district, hope to be a good district," Otto said.

District officials will hold a public meeting tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m., at the Joplin High School cafeteria to answer any questions regarding the audit findings.
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