Blaine schools received too much money, audit says

Published on Thu, Apr 28, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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A recently released state audit asserts that the Blaine school district received too much special education funding from state and federal programs for the 2009/2010 school year, but the district says the money will be returned.

For the 2009/2010 school year, the Blaine school district applied for and received $50,888 in combined federal and state special education “safety net” funds. The audit claims the district overstated its need for the money and did not move to return the funds in a timely manner.

The special education fund issue was the only finding the auditor’s office listed for the district.

 The Blaine school district, along with districts across the state, annually applies for safety net funding for use in Blaine’s special education program, superintendent Ron Spanjer said. The funds help the school’s manage the more expensive learning needs of special education students.

For the fiscal year ending August 2010, district staff applied for $50,888 in funding based upon the projected need for additional special education funds, district business manager Amber Porter said. When the fiscal year was complete, the district’s actual resources were higher than its expenditures, showing the safety net funding was not needed at all, Porter explained.

“The difference was 2 percent of the total special education program,” she said. “Therefore, the estimates used in the [safety net funding] application were very reasonable.”

The district sent a report on final, fiscal year-end budget numbers to the state on December 3, seven days before the state-mandated deadline, Porter said. The district’s plan to return the unused money was included in the district’s year-end report to the state, but the audit found the district needed to report the unneeded safety net funds sooner.

Porter explained to the state that district staff would have been happy to comply with the state’s request, had the state offered guidance on how and when to do so. Porter said she could not find any state documentation requiring the district report unused safety net funds before the December 10 deadline.

The district expected the finding in the state auditor’s report and has not spent the $50,888, Spanjer said. Porter is awaiting word from the state on when to start the paperwork necessary to return the funds.