Paperwork Glitch Costs San Diego Schools Millions

Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 04:09 PM

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Schools in San Diego, Calif., spent $2.7 million on preschool staffing under a federal grant, then forfeited the money because district officials did not submit reimbursement paperwork on time, according to a recent district audit.

The loss happened in 2009. Similar issues came up this year, almost resulting in a $700,000 forfeiture, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The monetary mistakes are coming to light at a time when San Diego Unified School District officials have warned of impending insolvency and recently discussed shutting down more than a dozen campuses to save $500,000 for each one closed.

San Diego County Treasurer-Tax Collector Dan McAllister, who chairs the school district’s audit and finance committee, said the report provides ammunition for naysayers who say the district shouldn’t seek any tax increases until it tightens its fiscal controls.

“It’s a shame because now people have to work doubly and triply hard to regain the public’s confidence,” McAllister told the Union-Tribune.

The audit centered on the district’s early childhood programs, which have a budget of $32.4 million to offer programs for low-income families and teenage students with child care needs. The department receives money from district, state and federal funds.

A critic of San Diego Unified’s financial practices, Scott Hasson, said the audit report reinforces his concerns about the district.

“It’s a broken system,” Hasson said. “This is just another indicator that the district is disorganized and can’t get its own house in order. The district is insulated from accountability. When things like this happen, they don’t worry, because who is going to hold them accountable?”

Bernie Rhinerson, the school district’s chief of staff, told the Union-Tribune that the audit report “definitely made us aware of some issues, and the department is responding to those issues.”

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