ALBANY, Ga. — Just a month after reimbursing the state more than $134,000 for unallowable Title I Part A expenditures in FY2012, the Dougherty County School System received two letters from the Georgia Department of Education this week questioning an additional $167,000 in expenditures from FY2011.
In a letter dated Nov. 5, DOE Title Programs Director Margo DeLaune outlined 110 questionable Title I expenditures by the District requesting additional documentation to justify the expenses, a reclassification of the expenses, or reimbursment.
In second letter dated Nov. 6, DOE Deputy Superintendent Avis King cited “serious concerns” regarding the District’s Title I, Part A program in placing the system on “High Risk” status.
King also informed DCSS Superintendent Joshua Murfree the department had placed the District on a “reimbursement basis,” meaning the system may not draw any portion of its FY2013 Title I Part A allocation until the DOE has reviewed and approved all purchase orders, receipts and other documentation for reimbursement.
“We have received the latest communication from the federal programs office at the Georgia Department of Education and there should be little surprise for the information it contains,” Murfree wrote in an emailed statement Thursday. “ ... These letters present an opportunity for our system to improve some procedures and practices of the past and move forward.”
The Nov. 5 letter addresses 110 questionable Title I expenditures ranging from $20 in travel reimbursements to $30, 699 for 10 District achievement assessments at eight elementary and two middle schools.
The state also wants more information on:
— $21,000 for 44 travel reimbursements
— $7,141 to renovate the DCSS’s federal programs office.
— $10,750 for 32 pulse learning systems.
— $12,840 for classroom wiring.
The letter adds, “ In addition to the questioned costs, it appears that the Title I Director for the DCSS is not signing off or approving these expenditures prior to them being submitted.”
None of this comes as a shock to DCSS Board member David Maschke.
“No, I am not surprised. We’ve been questioning these costs for years,” Maschke said. “What is perplexing to me is that they (the State DOE) previously audited FY2011 and gave us a clean audit. Now they have come back after the FRM (free and reduced meals) concerns and begun taking a closer look. I also question previous state audits on our SPLOST (special-purpose local-option sales tax) money.
“It makes me wonder what good the state audits are when board members are finding the problems and not the auditors themselves.”
When asked if he was concerned about being placed on a “reimbursement basis” by the state, Maschke replied, “no, I’m not worried about that. We’ve built up a pretty good reserve and can function under a “High Risk” designation until the state reimburses us.”
Just more than two months ago, DCSS Executive Finance and Operations Director Ken Dyer said the District had nearly $11 million in reserve money.
“This ‘High Risk’ status will mean closer scrutiny and an annual audit of our federal funded programs and we welcome that scrutiny,” Murfree wrote. “Until these issues are resolved, we will inform the board and public of our status with Race to the Top (RT3), School Improvement Grant (SIG), Title II-Part A, Title III, and Limited English Proficient funding status that is managed by the district’s Curriculum and Instruction Department.
“Also, we will inform the board and public of our status with the Title I program. The district understands the importance of ensuring clear and concise operational and procurement practices.
“Therefore, the DCSS school board and the school district will work closely to address and correct any and all inadequate policies, procedures and various fiscal processes.”