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Clerical Error Puts District 308 on the Hook to State for $1.5 Million Repayment

Sep 28, 2016 09:38PM ● Published by Steven Jack

Oswego School District 308 Board Member Danielle Paul revealed to the rest of the board this week that an error made in reporting the district's average daily attendance for the 2013-14 school year will cost the District about $1.5 million in money owed back to the state.

Paul sits on the board's Finance Committee and the error was discussed at the committee's Sept. 12 meeting. Average Daily Attendance figures are used to help determine how much the state owes school districts in state funding.

In this case, district officials overstated the amount of students in attendance, resulting in overpayment to the district. The issue was discovered during a routine audit, said Ali Mehanti, Assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations.

"This wasn't our money and now we need to pay it back," Mehanti told board members. 

Mehanti said the overstatement was a simple "clerical error" made by employees who are no longer with the district. After being alerted to the error, Mehanti said he has reviewed other years for any other mistakes.

He also said he personally oversees the reporting of Average Daily Attendance figures to the state to ensure their accuracy. Mehanti also said he is in the process of negotiating a plan with the state that could stretch the repayment out over three years, starting in fiscal year 2018. 

The news comes at a difficult economic time for School District 308. While the board has approved a FY 2017 budget that shows a small $180,000 surplus, Mehanti presented a five-year fiscal projection in June that shows projected budget deficits of at least $24 million by 2021.  

Board member Paul also said this week district officials who met with the Finance Committee this month also are projecting about $14.3 million in additional expenditures in the coming five years for technology upgrades and capital improvements across the district. 

"We have some serious issues coming up technology-wise that we're going to need spend some money on," Paul said "... There are some things that we just aren't going to be able to live without."

Mehanti said because there is no money in the budget to cover these future expenditures, the district will work to find ways to pay for them through non-referendum funding like additional bonds or borrowing from restructured bonds. 

Mehanti said he will present the Finance Committee with those options at its October meeting.


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