To the editor:
Either the Robbinsdale Area School District’s Financial Advisory Council (FAC) members don’t understand the state auditor report’s implications or intentionally misled the public with fallacies in their July 16 letter. Here’s what they got wrong.
The state auditor’s report wasn’t a “forensic state audit.” The report clearly states: “We were not engaged in and did not perform an audit.” The distinction’s important because the report looked at only 17 items the petition team requested; a forensic audit would have involved all District finances.
They said, “[T]here were no systemic problems uncovered.” Wrong. The auditor’s team looked at district administration credit cards and found in just 12 of its 79 cards, $94,982.30 charged had no proof they were for district business. All 79 cards tally more than $1 million annually, so you’d think FAC would pay closer attention.
The $94,982.30 dwarfs the report’s $69,000 cost they complained about.
They wrote, “The recommendations made are … in most cases, already reflected in policies of the district.” But the district doesn’t follow those policies, which FAC should demand they do.
“[M]any of the items in the audit report are items that are covered every year in our regular audit.” False. Abusing credit cards, allowing ex-employees to keep district-purchased technology, not reporting certain benefits as taxable income, making large purchases without school board approval, etc., have not been covered in past audits. If it were true, the auditors should be fired for missing the systemic problems the report uncovered.
FAC members ignore how the district used $706,968 from the retirees’ health benefits trust to issue bonds, violating state statutes that expressly prohibit using trust funds for anything other than claims payment.
The writers misled the public when writing that balancing budgets and increasing the general fund balance are “already recognized as extremely important and receives much focus from the FAC and School Board.” Three of the district’s past four budgets were deficit budgets.
To be anything but the School Board’s lapdog, FAC should do more than pay lip service to the District’s deep financial problems and the management/governance problems that have caused them.