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Audit findings get attention at meeting

By Meg Dickens
Freelance Writer

The Johnson County School Board gathers to discuss issues, opportunities, and current events each month. During that time, members can express any concerns. School Board Member Gary Matheson presented apprehension concerning findings from the school system’s most recent audit. After separating the findings from the county, the Johnson County School System reportedly had seven incidents documented by the auditor.
Matheson’s first concern revolved around not having these issues broken down to the board. Several officials, including Director of Schools Mischelle Simcox and County School Finance Director Tina Lipford, jumped in to explain that these issues were explained during a January meeting by County Director of Accounts and Budgets Russell Robinson. Robinson reportedly reached out to the auditor for specific examples to look into, which further helped officials troubleshoot how to prevent creating findings in the future. The three biggest concerns brought up through these findings revolved around heavily exceeding the county budget, missing purchase orders, and missing capital asset record filing.
According to reports read by Matheson, the school board exceeded the budget amount by $793,634, but Simcox and Lipford explained this is an issue related to Connections Academy that has been mentioned in audits from all schools using the program. It stems from not knowing what BEP funds would be allocated from the state, and the county “will never know what they will allocate until the end of June,” which is past the needed deadline. Auditors suggested upping the budget line item to correct this issue, and officials have already done so. The mentioned funding came from the state and cost Johnson County nothing.
The purchase order issue is also something the school board has already taken steps to correct. The example given by Lipford revolved around purchases from Sam’s Club with purchase orders from programs within the school. This type of instance has also reportedly caused occasional instances of paying sales tax despite the entity being tax-exempt. The process policy was changed to help combat this in the future.
“The bookkeeper sets the purchase order up for Johnson County Schools,” Lipford explained an example from the purchase order issue. They go to Sam’s, make the purchase, come back, and send a check down here. When the invoice comes, we have to write a check after the purchase, and we do not have a purchase order for that.”
The asset filing issue revolved mostly around filings for the Shady Valley Elementary closing. Lipford took partial accountability for this issue, saying the removal filing happened in the new fiscal year. Assets needed to be removed that had not yet been when the audit was done. Lipford also created a new form and shared it with other officials for thoughts on how to improve the process.
“Due to circumstances in the past, we are looked at very harshly,” Lipford pointed out but did not elaborate further.
Overall, the board has discussed the findings and taken steps to correct i sues. Further discussion led to the idea to create a central purchasing department with one new employee.
“You can eliminate a lot of these discrepancies right here if you had a central purchasing department,” Matheson explained.
Officials agreed it would be helpful but would need additional funding for this position. The topic will be discussed during the next board retreat. For more information about Johnson
County Schools, visit jocoed.net. Meetings are streamed live or available in the archives on the Johnson County Schools TN Video Youtube channel.