ST. GEORGE – The Washington County School Board passed a $198.1 million budget for fiscal year 2016-2017 Tuesday and amended a number of policies to bring the district into compliance with recommendations from two recent audits.
A Utah State Board of Education audit of Enterprise High School released in early 2016 addressed concerns about financial and compliance practices; another audit by the Utah State Auditor’s Office released in April concerned internal control and compliance of credit card use.
New state rules went into effect in May – previously any student, parent or teacher group that partnered with the district to raise funds for school activities were exempt from laws requiring a charitable solicitation permit.
However, that exemption was removed.
In October, the board proposed a new policy governing booster clubs and requiring that all funds raised go through school accounts, which would allow the district to know where the money was going.
The board made more changes to fundraising policies at a regular meeting Tuesday.
“We do recommend that fundraising activities be done within the school and that all funds be received, accounted for and deposited into school district accounts,” human resources director Lyle Cox said.
However, the new policy does allow for fundraising to be contracted with an outside organization such as a booster club, with several conditions:
There must be a written contract specifying the responsibilities of each party, the contract must show “arms-length” transaction and school employees including coaches cannot be involved in the finances of the outside organization.
“That, again, demonstrates an arms-length transaction, that there’s not a conflict of interest there,” Cox said.
In addition, all fundraisers must be approved by school administration and the district’s rules must be followed.
“In summary, it should not change the way we’ve told people to do things for years, but now we’ve got it clearly in policy that this is the way you need to be doing it,” district administrator Brent Bills said.
“So we’re hoping they’ll just comply with the direction we’ve been giving them, which will keep us legal, and this is what we’re trying to do here,” he added.
In addition, the board discussed proposed changes to policies on discipline, termination and nonrenewal of contracts, and strengthening language that would allow termination for not following finance, accounting, purchasing and advertising policies.
“I think we need to understand that in today’s world, especially after the recent audit that we had, we need to be more vigilant in how we monitor the expenditure of tax dollars,” board member Kelly Blake said.
Board member David Stirland said that better training is needed because the district is asking secretaries to be accountants, referring to issues mentioned in both district audits of problems with secretaries not being properly trained for the accounting functions they were asked to perform.
“Secretaries are probably the least amount of our problems,” Blake said. “There’s some other issues in other areas.”
The board adopted the budget after a public hearing at which no one commented. The budget shows a roughly $5 million increase over what was proposed in June due in part to new federal grant money received by the district.
Federal grants for improved technology were received for Lava Ridge and Fossil Ridge intermediate schools after an intensive application process, Bills said.
The multi-year federal grant provides a total of $300,000; $167,000 is budgeted to be spent this year. Any school can apply, however, in Utah, only four school districts and two charter schools made it through the application process.
The grant is a very extensive technology plan, Bills said, which provides training for educators about how to use technology in the classroom and includes onsite support for any problems that might arise. It also provides funding for improved technology infrastructure.
A separate $500,000 federal grant will allow the district to expand the district’s special education preschool program by a substantial amount – equaling about 20 percent, Bills said. The grant provides funding for 3.5 more certified teachers and additional part-time teaching assistants.
In other business, the School Board:
- Set the schedule for the 2018-2019 school year, selecting an option that starts classes on Monday, Aug. 13, but leaves a full two-week Christmas break.
- Heard a plea from the Colorado City school superintendent for a tuition agreement with the district wherein students in the border town could attend school in either Colorado City or Hildale.
- Named Travis Wilstead, the current principal at Hurricane Elementary, as the new Majestic Fields Elementary principal.
- Discussed changes in policies relating to the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, sick leave and nursing mother accommodations to bring the district into compliance with federal law.
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