Okanagan Skaha trustees troubled by cost of enrolment audit
School trustees are “not pleased” the district is on the hook for almost $30,000 it cost to have a team of auditors make sure it’s playing by the government’s funding rules.
An enrolment audit, conducted in May, examined a sample of student files to ensure the Okanagan Skaha School District was entitled to the regular funding amounts it claimed for students in all grades, plus supplementary funding for other programs like aboriginal education.
Auditors identified claw backs that totalled $21,000, but a delay in completing the final report meant the district got a pass this time, although it still has to cover the cost of the auditors’ week-long visit.
“I know that trustees were not pleased with having to pay for the cost of the audit,” said board chair Ginny Manning, particularly “when the audit’s a ministry audit, something that they come in and do.”
Manning noted that no matter who pays, it’s ultimately a cost borne by taxpayers, “but it does come out of our budget.”
Education Ministry spokesperson Matt Silver said districts always pay for enrolment compliance audits, three of which were conducted around B.C. last year.
Due to teachers’ job action, he continued, the final audit reports weren’t sent out this summer until after the deadline for school districts to appeal.
“Therefore, it was decided the ministry would only recover the cost to carry out the audit from the school districts, not the cost and funding adjustment of the audit findings. School District 67’s enrolment compliance audit would have recovered $49,500. Instead, the ministry only recovered $28,500 for the cost of the audit,” Silver said, which included the $20,000 fee for the six-person team’s work, plus $8,512.17 in expenses for travel, meals and accommodation.
As previously reported in the Western News, the district also spent $2,817.83 last fall on a mock audit of its aboriginal education program to ensure it was meeting ministry requirements for funding after it lost some key staff members.
A summary report from the mock audit noted the district offered a “rich and wide array” of programs for Aboriginal students, but found it was at risk of losing “significant” funding due to poor record-keeping.
The actual audit found seven of 42 Aboriginal students for whom the district claimed extra funding were not eligible. Despite that fail rate, superintendent Wendy Hyer said the mock audit paid for itself.
“It was (money) very well-spent, because I would say if we hadn’t done the audit we would have lost all of those students’ (funding), probably,” she said.
The enrolment audit also found some issues in the alternate education programs, including students who only attended class to pick up and return course work, despite having set goals to improve their attendance records.
“Overall, we learned a few things and we’ve put some processes in place,” Hyer said.
“It’s a lot of work and we’re doing our best to make sure we get the funding we’re entitled to so we can maintain services.”