Caldwell penalized after missing state deadline for financial audit

The State Department of Education has penalized the Caldwell School District for failing to meet state deadlines for reporting its annual audit.

This year, Caldwell was the only district or charter that failed to meet the Nov. 10 deadline spelled out in Idaho code.

When a district or charter misses this deadline, the state can withhold all or part of its Nov. 15 payment, putting the money on hold until the audit report is submitted.

The SDE withheld Caldwell’s $5,786,680 payment. The district appealed in December. The state agreed to give Caldwell 50 percent of its payment — $2,893,340 — to make payroll and cover other basic bills.

“We did so because we did not believe the district staff, including school teachers, should be hurt,” said Kelly Everitt, an SDE communications specialist. “We made it clear the balance will be distributed upon receipt of the annual audit.”

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

Burton took responsibility for the delay and said it stems from being part of a new administration. She said she has been unable to review all the accounts and give complete financial documents to independent auditors.

“I’ve not found anything inappropriate, it’s a need to find out where we are,” Burton told the board. “It’s just a new administration getting a complete understanding.”

Superintendent Shalene French started on July 1 and Burton was one of her first hires. Prior to their hiring, Caldwell was in turmoil after the departure of past Superintendent Tim Rosandick and the recalls of two school board members.

Burton also told the board she’s put a hold on technology spending because of a negative balance in that account.

“We’ve found where we’ve had some negative balances we need to clear up,” Burton said.

Each year, anywhere from one to four districts or charters miss the Nov. 10 audit deadline, Everitt said.

“The reasons vary. Sometimes it’s for new staff reasons and sometimes it’s because the districts are so small that their auditors don’t give them the priority they give other clients,” he said.

Every district or charter that has missed the deadline in the past has eventually filed an audit, according to the memory of the finance staff with the SDE, Everitt said.

At the end of 2015, Caldwell had a cash reserve of $2.3 million.

“Our cash flow is fine right now,” Burton said on Wednesday. “Getting the audit completed is my priority because we need to get caught up.”