Wayne County Outlook

Posted April 23, 2014 at 2:49 pm

A forensic audit of the Monticello Independent School District conducted by Kentucky State Police has been completed and turned over to the Commonwealth’s Attorney, according to an article published on Friday, April 12 in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The article was produced by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, which is a non-profit newsroom from Louisville Public Media and 89.3 WFPL News.

The financial situation of Monticello Independent School during its final year of operation was prominently featured in the article published last week.

The story focused on a recent report from the state auditor’s office regarding school finance officers in districts across Kentucky.

The report indicated that school finance officers may lack necessary job skills and training to perform the job.

The article begins by noting that Monticello School bought property with money meant for payroll.

It also noted that nobody knew the bank balance for the district, and by December 2012, the district did not have enough money to pay employees for the rest of the school year.

That’s when the state stepped in, taking the school district under its management.

An emergency loan was granted by the Kentucky Department of Education so the district could finish the remainder of the year, and over the summer the independent school merged with the county school. But the problems at Monticello prompted Kentucky Department of Education officials to request a review of school finance officers’ qualifications in response to proposed legislation that would require school finance offices after July 1, 2015 to obtain certification.

The legislation would also require them to have annual finance training.

That review showed that one-third of the state’s finance officers don’t have college degrees in accounting or a finance-related field. Those 58 districts represent more than $1.3 billion a year in spending, according to the report.

In more than 20 percent of the districts, finance officers do not have a bachelor’s degree in any subject at all, according to the report. Less than half reported obtaining a finance-related certification.

The audit indicates that the lack of qualified finance offices leaves a district vulnerable to increased risks of waste, fraud and abuse.

“Monticello is a cautionary tale,” Hiren Desai, associate commissioner for administration and support at the Kentucky Department of Education, stated in the article. “I hope we never have a school district in that type of shape. But it was very much related to the fact that the finance officer was a person who was not qualified for the job.”

Kentucky State Police became involved in an investigation at Monticello School in January 2013, after Monticello Police Chief Ralph Miniard and County Attorney Tom Simmons reviewed results of the findings of a state management audit of the school district.

Simmons and Miniard contacted state police to further investigate the matter with a forensic audit.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Matthew Leveridge could not be reached for comment Monday regarding the status of information turned over to his office by Kentucky State Police.