Schools Flunk Money Management

Article excerpt

Schools have a hard enough time getting the money they need without having the public's confidence shaken by mismanagement or incompetence. Recent reports from the Fox School District in Jefferson County and East St. Louis School District 189 are hardly confidence builders.

The Fox saga has played out over several months, with word of overpayments to employees, sloppy recordkeeping and an attitude toward financial management that is far too casual. Now, a yearlong review of the district's finances details practices that fall far short of the careful use of public money that taxpayers have the right to expect.

For example, the study by a private accounting firm showed that the district issued thousands of checks without knowing how much money was in its bank account. Money withheld from paychecks for deposit in IRAs and other savings plans was not invested properly; health and dental benefits were paid for employees who no longer worked there; some employees were paid too much, others too little. Checks weren't recorded accurately or, in some cases, were not recorded at all. Diana Bourisaw, who became superintendent over the summer, says new procedures and personnel have solved the old problems and Fox's finances are now stable. …

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