SMITHVILLE — With the budget “just at balanced” for the coming school year, citizens want to know more about how their tax dollars are being spent on schools and want the state auditor’s office to investigate. A citizen petition requesting the school district undergo an audit by State Auditor Nicole Galloway’s office is circulating.
During the monthly Board of Education meeting Wednesday, May 15, Assistant Superintendent for Support Services Wayne Krueger said he and the district would appreciate a state audit, but the preference would be at no expense to the district already battling a tight budget.
“I went ahead and called the state auditor’s office,” Krueger said. “I’ve requested the auditor come and do a state audit of the district.”
A state audit reviews operating procedures and investigates compliance with the laws associated with taxing entities. Krueger said though he requested a state audit, it doesn’t guarantee one.
Krueger said he met with auditor’s office staff and had the impression they would consider it but would need it to fit within an already busy audit schedule. He said there are several audits the office is required to perform and others that it has scheduled due to citizen petition, such as the one of Clay County.
“If the school board wants one, that is all the more reason to sign. Having the signatures from citizens will guarantee our district gets the state audit,” wrote petition supporter and district parent Erika Stiles in a Facebook comment on the petition.
If the auditor declines the district’s request, a citizen-petitioned audit would require signatures of registered voters in the school district equaling 10% of actual votes cast in the district in the last gubernatorial election. The district would be responsible for paying for the audit, estimated by the auditor’s office to range between $45,000 and $65,000.
“To put it in perspective, that is the cost of a classroom teacher with some experience, a media specialist. That’s a couple paraprofessionals, the cost of five lunchroom/playground aids,” Krueger said. “We are not opposed to a state audit at all, not at all. We would like to prevent it being a cost to our budget.”
Steph Deidrick, press secretary for the auditor’s office, said if the required number of signatures are gathered, the State Auditor’s Office would be required to perform the audit and the office would be required to charge the district for cost of the audit.
Deidrick said the auditor’s office has the discretion to audit school districts if a district requests one. In these cases, the decision is made based on the seriousness of potential wrongdoing and the available resources of the auditor’s office. In the past, records indicate the district has never been audited by the state.
“If the request is accepted and an audit is performed at this office’s discretion, it can legally be performed using existing appropriations at no additional cost to the district,” she said.
Chief Petitioner Lisa Taylor could not be reached for comment.