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Genoa treasurer frustrated by finding

A state audit determined that Genoa Local School District improperly contributed a small amount of money toward the retirement funds of three of its board of education members and asked for the cash to be returned.

The finding for recovery was the only one contained in the audit recently released to the public by  Auditor David Yost. The other seven findings listed in the audit detailed mistakes in accounting procedures that auditor says must be changed.

The three board members, Mitch Hoyles, Alan Brown and Laura Meinke, each wrote $204 checks in May and June to return the contributions the school board had made toward retirement funds in 2011 and 2012.

District treasurer Bill Nye found the finding for recovery disconcerting.  The practice has been in place for nearly 25 years, said Nye, who has been employed by the district for six years. And, he said he doesn’t understand why this is the first time the finding appeared as a black mark against the district.

“I’ve been through five other audits and this never came up. I’m dumbfounded,” he said.

Nye said after he received the determination he contacted the district lawyers as well as the School Employees of Ohio Retirement System. Both said the practice “was fine,” he added. But fighting the audit determination would be a costly matter. So, in the end, Nye said, the district has opted to change the procedure.

`He also challenged the finding that he did not close the audit in a timely procedure. Nye noted that the state auditors came to Genoa in September and left in January. The audit is supposed to be completed by March 31. It was not done until July.

“I have no control over how long they take to finish the audit,” Nye explained.

A representative from the auditor’s office was not available to comment on the finding for recovery or the closing of the books issue.

The remaining findings covered things such as incomplete records for federal grants as well as improper classification of principle and interest payments.

Regarding incomplete records, Nye explained that teachers whose pay was in part supported by federal grants had not filled out daily logs explaining how their time had been spent during the day.  That has been fixed. But he noted following federal grant guidelines is also sometimes difficult because all the procedures are not fully in place when programs begin. It can often be a “learn as you go,” system, he said.

“I know I am not the No. 1 auditor in the state. There are items I need to work on and I need to improve,” Nye said. “And honestly, it’s frustrating for me. It’s personally embarrassing. I take pride in what our audits do say. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t have taken the time to contact the lawyers and retirement system. I take pride in how our district looks.”

The Genoa district, which has an $11 million annual budget, has been feeling the financial pinch along with other area schools as state support and changes in personal tangible property taxes continue to hammer at their revenues.

Through program cuts, staff attrition, and a number of other changes, the system has been able to maintain a decent hand on its budget without having to repeatedly go back to the voters for help, Nye said.

Consolidation of the school district buildings at one central site along Genoa-Clay Center Road is a large part of that plan. Having the new middle school and elementary school located near the high school helps cut down on travel and other expenses, Superintendent Dennis Mock, explained in previous interviews.

Changes in the other accounting findings noted in the audit have been put into place already, Nye said.

He said he chooses to take a positive approach to the audit, learn from the experience and put his best foot forward on behalf of the Genoa school district in the future.

“I know they have a job to do,” Nye added. “It’s unfortunate that it looks bad for our district.”


Pemberville audit
A finding for recovery has also been issued in a state audit of the Village of Pemberville for 2010 and 2009.

The recently released audit notes that Marcella Abke, a utility clerk, pled guilty to one count of theft and is required to make restitution of $3,213 to the village as well as related costs of $11,525.

She’s begun repaying the village.

According to the audit, a review of manual duplicate receipts issued, utility computer system reports, utility deposit slips, bank teller receipts, and village bank statements, Abke didn’t deposit utility collections totaling $5,912 into a village bank account.

The audit report says:  “During our review of the supporting documentation related to the deposit of utility collections, it was determined Ms. Abke included seven personal checks totaling $2,699 with the deposits of village utility receipts. Ms Abke did not have a village utility account during the audit period.

“In accordance with the foregoing facts and pursuant to Ohio Rev. Code Section 117.28, a finding for recover is hereby issued against Marcella Abke for public property converted or misappropriated totaling $3,213 in favor of the Village of Pemberville Water, Sewer, and Electric funds.”

The audit also found what it called a “significant deficiency” in adjustments to customer utility accounts but documentation by the village board of public affairs couldn’t be located for all adjustments.

The lack of board approval resulted in improper adjustments to the accounts.

The board has since adopted a policy to review all account adjustments.
       (News editor Larry Limpf contributed to this story.)