By Melissa Toothman
A discrepancy of more than $750,000 has the Barbour County school system considering a full-scale inventory to reconcile the problem.
Annette Hughart, treasurer for Barbour County Schools, discussed the discrepancy with the Barbour County Board of Education Monday. She said there is a difference of about $778,000 between the total reported in the West Virginia Educational Information System and what the most recent audit report for the school system shows.
"We can't rely on the validity of either number," Hughart said.
A county-wide fixed asset inventory could produce a reliable number. Hughart said the last full scale inventory for the county school system occurred eight or more years ago.
Superintendent of Barbour County Schools Dr. Joseph Super said the discrepancy could simply be caused by items that somehow may not have been counted. Board Member Robert Wilkins compared the discrepancy to the idea of someone searching for holiday ornaments and finding items that had been hidden away for so long they had been forgotten.
Super said the discrepancy did not have him suspecting embezzlement.
"We're a small county. We really don't have a lot of items every year that fall into this category," Hughart said. "As long as you've got a good starting point, and you've got excellent records, and you keep it current, that's the key to this."
The school board will revisit the issue at a future meeting, and make a decision on whether to proceed with an inventory.
If the board proceeds, a company must be located to conduct the inventory. They will have to schedule the inventory around the company's available schedule.
Super said he would like to have the inventory completed before the year's upcoming annual audit "so we can hopefully avoid some sort of finding. What we'll be doing mainly is just tagging our items so we have a better account of what we have that would fall as a capitol asset. We're just trying to get back to some sort of ground zero where we can proceed."
In other business:
The school board discussed the possibility of running a special election for the purpose of trying to pass a levy, following the failure of both excess levy and bond call proposals in the Nov. 6 general election.
Super said a special election would cost the school system about $30,000 to $35,000. He suggested that it would be best to determine if there is a community "outcry" to try and pass a levy.
"But I'm not hearing a strong outcry right now," Super said.
Board Member Doward Matlick suggested the school board wait for public comment before considering whether or not to run another levy.
"I'm not sure we had all the support of the teachers. That's what I'm concerned about," Matlick said. "I know we need (the levy), and I'll support it."
The Board of Education will evaluate the votes by precinct from the general election and resume discussion and possible action at a later meeting.
Other financial items discussed at the meeting include a situation with uncollected child nutrition bills. At the end of June, the number of outstanding balances for unpaid bills totaled 1,074, Hughart said. That number includes current students and students no longer in the school system.
"We're higher than we should be, but this is a problem every county is facing," Hughart said.
Hughart said that one active student has accrued a balance of $11,000. Not all outstanding balances are able to be collected. There is no limit to how long the outstanding balances can remain in the financial report. Some can be written off if the proper procedure is followed. Super said he would not turn a student away from a meal, but he recognizes the need for bills to be paid.
"We can't write it off until every possible (collection) avenue has been investigated," Hughart said.
Hughart reported an increase in substitute expenditure over the past several years. Hughart said the school system is ahead by one month in spending compared to the previous years.
Elaine Benson, director of personnel, suggested that it could be related to an increase in the amount of substitute teachers hired this year. Hughart also mentioned a change in payroll coding that prevents substitute payroll from being categorized with that of regular employees.
"I'm still perplexed as to why there's an increase," Hughart said, adding that the situation would be monitored for change. "It looks like we're going to be fine."