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State Dept. of Education is happy with school district’s audit

The Mississippi Department of Audit is happy with its audit of the books of the Picayune Municipal Separate School District, district business manager Lisa Penton told the district’s school board at its noon meeting yesterday.

Penton said she was “surprised as anybody” to read where the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors was concerned about the audit.

Penton said her surprise actually was for two reasons. She didn’t know that the department, which audits a school district every four to five years no longer published their findings in a bound volume but simply sent a computer compact disc with the results of the audit to the district. She said she was waiting on the bound volume that the audit department previously sent following its audits. Penton said she believed that the supervisors simply had read the cover letter that came with the audit CD before making their comments and didn’t understand the contents of the audit.

School districts hire an accounting firm to audit its books during the years between the audit department audits. All audits are public records and copies of the accounting firm audits are submitted to the state Department of Audit for its review.

After reading about the supervisors’ comments in the Picayune Item, Penton said she called the audit department to learn why the supervisors had gotten a copy of the audit before the school district only to learn the CD the district had received was the audit and the only copy the district would get. She had the material on the disc printed and bound for the members of the school board to review.

Penton said she was told by the audit department that the district’s audit was fine, that though there were “findings,” they were not excessive or out of line and that the department was satisfied that the district was already in the process of correcting those findings.

Penton said the “finding” that concerned her most had to do with some interest the district was going to have to pay to the federal government because of the timing of some money drawn down for expenses in the Title 2 account having to do with class size reduction and not disbursed before it drew interest. That interest will have to be paid the federal government since the district is not allowed to collect interest on money it receives for federal programs.

On other matters, school board members were concerned that the district is getting about $61,058 less in Mississippi Adequate Education Program money than it did last year because the “hold harmless” period following Hurricane Katrina has ended. During the “hold harmless” period, the district received funding based on its enrollment prior to the storm. Based on its own earlier calculations, the district had feared it would lose about $300,000 in MAEP funds.

MAEP funding is distributed to school districts based on each district’s enrollment. That enrollment is determined by its average daily attendance. Picayune’s daily attendance has been averaging about 94 to 95 percent. The district is working to increase that average to 97 percent in order to qualify for more MAEP money.

The district also is working on a plan to identify all students in the district that are eligible for free lunches, whether they apply for the free lunches or not, since the district receives additional money for those students.

The board also was happy to hear that school accreditation will not be determined this year by the new state tests. The new test is not comparable to the old test on which accreditation was based and the state is having to establish a new base line this year off of which to determine accreditation levels. However, Adequate Yearly Progress will be determined this year by the tests, said assistant superintendent Brent Harrell, though he and other members of the administration weren’t sure how that could be done.

In other matters, the board:

— Approved personnel matters, including the teacher pay schedule which this year adds pay increase increments from 25 years to 35 years. In previous years, pay increased incrementally only through 25 years.

— Approved consent items, including donations from Winn Dixie, Target, 1st National Bank, Hotel and Restaurant Mgt., Crosby Memorial Library, Betty K’s, Kanduit Construction, Coca Cola, West Side PTO, World Vision, Mr. and Mrs. Dean Shaw and Allen Hickman and a member of Ressurection Life Ministry.

— Approved a contract for “board books,” which is the publication of the agenda for meetings and the packet to board members that accompanies the agenda.

— Approved the purchase of about an acre of land for $6,000 adjacent to Nicholson Elementary School. Two appraisals had been made on the property, one for about $10,000 and the other for about $15,500, contingent on a title search and land description. The board was pleased with the price.

— Approved payments of $660 to Landry and Lewis Architects and for $46,075 to ReflecTech.

— Approved local plan updates for the Career and Technology Center.

— Approved a policy to purchase school uniforms for the district’s three cheerleading squads, with squads alternating the years in which each would receive new uniforms and approved purchasing uniforms for the junior varsity squad.

— Approved the summer food service program.

— Approved the use of the junior high cafeteria from 2 to 5 p.m. Friday, May 9, by Republican Women for a teacher appreciation reception.

— Went into executive session on a student discipline matter.

Adjourned.

The Mississippi Department of Audit is happy with its audit of the books of the Picayune Municipal Separate School District, district business manager Lisa Penton told the district’s school board at its noon meeting yesterday.