I did like the opening sentence:
If Seattle Public Schools didn't have enough financial problems already, it now has a few of its own making.
It makes it very hard for parents (and the public) to believe the district's cries of "we're poor" when we know they are not making financial oversight job one. When you don't have money, watching the money is the first thing on your radar.
The district's statement to the Times was, as you would expect, muted. They said:
District officials called the errors unacceptable and pledged to fix them, while at the same time saying that it brought most of them to the auditor's attention and that they are a very small part of the district's budget.
The overpayment of salaries, for example, represents a small fraction of 1 percent of the district's $558 million budget, said Duggan Harmon, the district's executive director of finance.
Harmon also said none of the problems will add to the $27 million in expenses that the district already is planning to cut from its budget for the 2010-11 school year.
I'll have to go back and read the audit again but I didn't think I read that the district "brought most of them to the auditor's attention". Also, yes, Mr. Harmon, the problem of finding the $82K for the Native American program does add to the expenses for the 2010-2011 budget; how can it not?
The district also issued a press release on this issue. Their opening paragraph was a doozy:
For many years, Seattle Public Schools has been working to improve the financial management of our district. As reported by the Alliance for Education, public confidence that the district’s resources are being spent wisely has increased steadily since 2006.
How come we don't hear about this, on a regular basis, about say, Renton or Bellevue? Why can't this district get its accounting under control? Why is it taking years (a VAX curse whereby everything takes longer)? And I'll have to ask Communications but I missed this Alliance evidence about people being confident about how the district's resources are being spent.
What's weird is that the district doesn't use the lines they used for the Times. They don't state that they told the Auditor about these issues as they did in the Times. Additionally, they don't make light of what they consider a small sum of money as they did in the Times.
They did have one funny line:
The district is also working to recover about $61,600 due from individuals who are no longer employees, and is in the process of investigating the remaining overpayments.
And good luck with that one. Again, it is troubling that so many employees would see extra money in their paychecks and say nothing. I'd like to think it might have been confusion on the part of some of them but most people do know what sum should or should not be on their paycheck.