Caldwell completes past-due audit, waits for $9 million in withheld funds

The Caldwell School District finally completed its past-due audit for 2015-16, and can receive nearly $9 million that the state had withheld.

Trustees voted to accept the audit on Monday, and then turned it over to the State Department of Education, more than five months after it was due. The independent audit revealed problems in the way the district monitored its spending, but the new administration says those problems have been fixed.

Caldwell Superintendent Shalene French

Caldwell was the only district or charter that failed to meet the Nov. 10 audit submission deadline spelled out in Idaho law. When a district or charter misses this deadline, the SDE can withhold state funding until the audit report is submitted.

The SDE withheld Caldwell’s November payment of $2,893,340 and its February payment of $6,076,428, for a total of $8,969,768.

SDE spokesman Jeff Church said Caldwell can expect the state money as early as next week.

“The department was clear that the balance would be distributed upon receipt of the annual audit,” Church said.

During a special school board meeting Dec. 19, Caldwell Chief Financial Officer April Burton had said the audit would be completed and submitted no later than March.

On Thursday, Superintendent Shalene French said the audit was late because she wanted it to be correct.

“I feel bad it’s delayed but I wanted everything to be accurate,” French said. “The state has been great in working with us.”

French said the district changed its financial recording system three years ago and the switchover caused “hiccups” to occur. Her staff has been reviewing and correcting three years of financial data.

“We had to make sure it’s right,” French said.

Independent auditors EideBailly completed a 56-page report and found that Caldwell had “significant deficiencies” in the “internal control over financial reporting” during 2015-16.

EideBailly noted financial journal entries that had no evidence of proper review and said district procedures regarding review were not always followed, creating a “risk that significant errors or misstatement will be recorded and not be detected and/or corrected.”

The report recommended that all journal entries be reviewed and approved by the “appropriate level of management” and said these deficiencies will be resolved with the hiring of a new administration.

“We need to be sure a system is in place where one person isn’t making the requisition and then approving it,” French said. “We have already done that with a new staff.”

Neither French nor Burton worked for Caldwell during the 2015-16 audit period.

French started on July 1, 2016, and Burton was one of her first hires.

Jodie Mills served as interim superintendent in 2015-16, and continues to be employed in Caldwell under French. She served as superintendent as Caldwell searched for a replacement for Tim Rosandick. In June 2015, trustees ousted Rosandick and assistant superintendent Luci Asumendi, without explanation.

Rosandick remained under contract in a consulting role during 2015-16 and continued to earn his salary of $137,000, but there was no evidence that he consulted with staff. Mills fulfilled the duties of superintendent without the aid of an assistant.

Meanwhile, Caldwell voters will elect at least one new trustee on May 16. Kent Marmon resigned in January; Marisela Pesina and Nicarol Clifton will vie for the vacancy. Trustee Lisa Bevington will face challenger Lisa Johnson on the same day.

Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over two million pageviews a year. Jennifer has more than 35 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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