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State officials taking close look at school finances

Insufficient documentation of financial records in the LincolnCounty School District will be a topic of discussion at a stateboard of education meeting Thursday and Friday.

The state board will be presented information about a disclaimerrecently issued on the school district after a state audit, saidLincoln County Superintendent of Education Perry Miller.

A disclaimer means the district’s financial records were not ina condition where auditors could make an official statement,explained Frank Fortenberry, a financial advisor for thedistrict.

“The records that have been kept in the past are inadequate,”Miller said. “The problems of the Lincoln County School Districtare not financial. We are on solid financial ground.”

The school district has been working for several months toimprove the bookkeeping system.

“We’re making some positive changes to update the old ageprocedures that needed to be done away with a long time ago,”Fortenberry said.

Fortenberry, along with Ronnie Watson from the state departmentof education’s department of financial accountability, were broughtinto the district in April to “construct and reconstruct” therecords in order to adequately reflect the district’s financialposition.

Cheryl Shelby was hired as the new business manager in May afterformer business manager Janet Smith resigned earlier this year.

“We feel we have made much progress toward correcting ourproblem and are confident we will receive a favorable audit reportfor this year,” Miller said.

School officials may, however, find extra help around the cornerin preparing for the audit if the state board decides to assignanother financial advisor to the district.

“The state department will help us bring closure to theseproblems,” Miller added.

The school district’s 3.8 accreditation level has been”advised,” allowing the district to solve matters within 18 monthswithout any consequences.

The district can get back in good graces with the results of anew audit, which began a few weeks ago. The results will be madepublic in several months.

Miller believes the “unfavorable” predicament the district hasbeen in for several years is one that will finally be correctedthis year.

“These problems existed way before I got here,” added Miller,who was elected last year.

He thinks the situation will turn out to be beneficial for theschool district.

“The disclaimer issued by the audit department will have apositive effect in that it will allow the district to bring closureto these old problems and make a new beginning,” he said.

Fortenberry, who has worked with districts around the state,plans to use the opportunity to build a state of the artbookkeeping system within the district, putting district officialson top of things.

“It is not a desirable situation to be in, but more positivethings will come out of this than negative,” he said.