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State audit confirms Gainesville schools' budget woes
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State auditors presented Gainesville’s school board with the results of the school system’s fiscal year 2008 audit in a meeting Monday night, and ticked off the many problems that once existed in the system’s finances.

The issues, the auditors noted, happened between June 30, 2007 and June 30, 2008. But many of those issues are being addressed and some have been resolved.

Ben Riden, deputy state auditor, told the board its finances for that fiscal year were plagued with cash reconciliation problems —many caused by a rushed installation of new accounting software.

Gainesville schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said auditors reported the school system had been spending money for school needs from the appropriate school-level accounts, but had not been documenting the spending in the appropriate categories under the umbrella of school-level accounts.

"The improvement we still need to make is to reconcile each fund within an account," Dyer said. "Before next year, we will reconcile them with each fund. It’s a very common finding, but because we’re in financial corrections, we have to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t,’ and we’re going to."

The audit concluded that despite cash flow issues — resulting in a $5.4 million deficit — the school system’s financial officials had not acted illegally.

"We have a clean audit," Dyer said. "It continues to be frustrating to find how many things we can attribute back to that software setup."

The fiscal year 2008 audit was more than a year overdue. All school systems undergo annual state audits.

"We have now caught up. This year we have audited 2007 and 2008," Dyer said. "... We are hoping we will have all of our issues resolved for 2009."

Since the deficit was discovered in late spring of last year, Gainesville schools Chief Financial Officer Janet Allison has untied accounts that were linked during fiscal year 2008 that masked the board’s overspending. Allison said she is continuing to diagnose software problems stemming from its initial implementation in 2007 and continues to ferret out the system’s cash reconciliation issues.

The presentation of the fiscal year 2008 audit was overdue because of all the system’s fiscal hang-ups. Dyer and Riden decided Monday the Gainesville school system aims to begin its fiscal year 2009 audit with state auditors in November to get the system caught up with the state’s auditing schedule.

"That’s the signal that the recovery period is kind of over," Dyer said of the November audit goal.

Gainesville school board member Sammy Smith said, thankfully, the results of the fiscal year 2008 audit contained no unexpected news for board members.

"This is progress for us," he said.

Smith also noted that at the conclusion of the troubling 2008 fiscal year, the board fired former Gainesville schools Superintendent Steven Ballowe. Shortly thereafter, the board elected Dyer to serve as interim superintendent before she was appointed permanent superintendent in October of 2008.

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