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State: District 113A Must Pay Back More Than $328K in 'Unallowable' Transportation Reimbursements

District 113A Superintendent Tim Ricker cited a "breakdown in communication" as the reason board members were not immediately informed of a transportation audit adjustment for a 2008-2009 claim.

must repay more than $328,000 to the state after receiving "unallowable transportation reimbursements" for claims made during the 2008-2009 fiscal year, district officials said.

District 113A Superintendent Tim Ricker and Business Manager Barbara Germany presented information to school board members Tuesday night regarding a transportation audit conducted by the Illinois State Board of Education. According to the audit, the district received reimbursements for its 2008-2009 transportation claim that are "not allowable" by the state.

Reimbursements totaled $305,056 for regular transportation and $23,900 for special education transportation, according to district officials. The money was received by District 113A during the 2009-2010 school year, based on the state's procedure for disbursing transportation funds.

According to Ricker, transportation reimbursements are paid the year after claims are made. Audits, should they be required, are conducted the year after payments are received.

Germany said the state's auditor found a number of issues with the 2008-2009 claim, including inaccurate reporting of student enrollment, non-reimbursable salaries for an emergency operator and administrative assistant, an understatement of fuel money received from the Lemont Park District and a lack of documentation for a conference attended by the district's transportation director.

According to the state, District 113A also incorrectly documented bus leases during the accounting process, which was the most significant reason for the adjustment, Germany said.

An ISBE auditor was sent to the district in February 2011 to look through claims with then Interim Business Manager Jay Tovian, Ricker said. The auditor verbally shared her findings with the administration Feb. 3-4.

At the time, the indication from the state was that the district would receive a final report on the audit findings once it went through the ISBE Funding and Disbursement Services Department, Ricker said.

According to Ricker, a letter regarding the audit adjustment was received Aug. 29. At that point, he claims he delegated the report to Germany.

Board members were not informed of the audit adjustment until earlier this month, when the administration received a follow-up email from the state asking how the district planned to pay back the reimbursements.

During Tuesday's meeting, Ricker blamed himself for a "breakdown in communication" that ultimately caused the oversight.

"I submitted the letter to [Germany] and delegated that," Ricker said. "I'm not throwing her under the bus ... I accept full responsibility for a miscommunication from an internal standpoint."

Based on information provided by state officials, District 113A has two options for paying back the $305,056: pay the amount in full or adjust the district's transportation reimbursements over the next three years.

Because the administration does not think the first option is "financially doable," Ricker said his recommendation would be to take a conservative approach and adjust claims over the next three years.

Using this method, the district will not have to use any existing funds, but will need to make reductions in excess of $100,000 to its transportation claims over the next three years. The exact figures were not available Tuesday night.

District 113A is still waiting on the state for direction on the special education reimbursements, Ricker said.

Ricker also told board members that all of the money received from the state is present and accounted for in the district's transportation fund, and that the adjustment will not result in any immediate cuts.

Germany, who said she has dealt with audit adjustments in previous school districts, said she is already planning to change the district's process for making transportation claims to ensure 100-percent accuracy.

In previous years, former Business Manager Bob Beckwith, who was working for the district when the mistakes were made, was the only one looking at the district's transportation claims. Moving forward, Germany said she will work with Pam Mazurek, director of operations for District 113A, to review all claims sent to the state.

Now that the board has discussed the audit adjustment, Ricker said he will contact Deb Vespa, ISBE division administrator for business services, about whether the issue will impact the district's financial plan.

An updated version of the plan by a 4-3 vote. Board President Mike Aurelio and Board Members Karen Siston and Al Malley cast the dissenting votes.

Per the request of the board, the administration will also review their past two claims to be sure everything is accurate and allowable by the state.

Mary Curran December 22, 2011 at 11:47 PM
Mr. Montgomery, are you the same William Montgomery who is Laura Reigle's campaign manager?
William Montgomery December 23, 2011 at 12:31 AM
There is something I think everyone to read! It can be read on the following web site. Click miscellanous to get information on Lisa Wright and Kevin Doherty. Mr. Doherty has been on the Board since 2007 and Ms. Wright has been on since 2005. I would appreciate other peoples thoughts after reading these statements, because I have a hard time understand their positions on Mr. Ricker and how they could let District 213a be in the position it is today. http://aplusforsd113a.com/miscellanous-documents/ go to miscellanous to pull us Lisa Wright and Kevin Dogerty's campaign statements
Jorg Manteno December 23, 2011 at 01:17 AM
WOW, I am so glad that they are on the school board and I respect their opinions even further. Thanks Bill for pointing out what great community members they are. You are not such a bad guy after all. Happy Holidays!
Hank Olenick December 23, 2011 at 03:12 AM
I believe that's called a cud.
Marie Markowski December 23, 2011 at 03:15 AM
For future reference, it's "...in the MIDST of...". Not "...in the MISTS of..."
Hank Olenick December 23, 2011 at 03:49 AM
To bad the BOE was so inept in managing funds that the taxpayers wouldn't trust them with more money.
Charles Johnson December 23, 2011 at 04:01 AM
William, I read Mr. Doherty's background and am struggling to try and reconcile his experience as a CPA/attorney and the ongoing financial shenanigans that have occured during his tenure on the board. Has the board had any discussion about the material findings listed by the auditors in the recently completed audit? I was stunned to read about the material weaknesses and significant deficiencies identified by the auditors. In particular, I was shocked at the official management response to these deficiencies. Here's an example: Requirement-Generally Accepted Accounting Principles require records to be kept on the accrual basis of accounting. Cause-Closing procedures do not include steps to accumulate and record accrual basis information. Recommendation-Management should implement procedures to record accrual basis information. What was Management's response? -"Management disagrees with the recommendation." I can't understand how a CPA could remain quiet with the extent and severity of the defiencies outlined in the audit.
Charles Johnson December 23, 2011 at 04:29 AM
Here's a prescient statement from the audit report: "A deficiency in internal control exists when the design or operation of a control does not allow management or its employees, in the normal course of performing their assigned functions, to prevent, or detect and correct misstatements on a timely basis. A material weakness is a deficiency or a combination of deficiencies, in internal control such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the entity's financial statements will not be prevented, or detected and corrected on a timely basis." Who knew that it would only take two months after the ink was dry on the audit for that "reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the entity's financial statements" to bubble up to the surface. The auditor's findings section is stunningly bad. Even worse is Management's offical response to some of these findings that they disagree with the auditor's recommendations to fix the deficiencies.
Jorg Manteno December 23, 2011 at 01:32 PM
Too bad the district is the least funded in three counties and the community is often led astray by the FOIA police.
Jorg Manteno December 23, 2011 at 02:21 PM
Charles, who is in charge of the Finance Committee-isn't that Mr. Malley? Isn't Mr. Malley a CPA. I am not sure why you are concerned with Mr. Doherty. With Mr. Doherty extensive background with school finances (a CPA and lawyer), and Mr. Malley being a CPA, I would assume both are aware of the current audit and the findings/recommendations. If you wish to have a positive input into the school finances, perhaps you should consider joining the Finance Committee.
Jorg Manteno December 23, 2011 at 02:23 PM
Thanks Ms. Markowski for the correction and sorry for any other typos.
Jorg Manteno December 23, 2011 at 02:36 PM
Charles, from my understanding of school finances, Dr. Ricker and Mr. Aurelio are correct in their statements. The district should be able to do an interfund loan from the Transportation Fund to the Education Fund as planned. The district may need to borrow more in TAWS though, but since a conservative budget was passed and the district was on a schedule to not be reliant on TAWS sooner than originally thought, this should not impact the district negatively. If you are correct in your assumption concerning the Transportation reimbursements from the state, I would not be surprised if the district may need to borrow another round of TAWS. Since the superintendent and the school board has a good working relationship with the high school, I would assume that the ability to borrow TAWS should not be impacted.
Charles Johnson December 23, 2011 at 04:04 PM
Jorg, my comments were a direct response to William's request regarding thoughts about Mr. Doherty and Ms. Wright. His request did not include Mr. Malley. Any CPA worth his salt would be in an apoplectic fit in response to reading the findings in the audit report. And that should include Mr. Malley. I don't know what any board member's response was when the audit report was reviewed in the October Finance Committee because the district hasn't posted the minutes to that meeting on its web site even though that meeting was two months ago. The auditors told the board that the financials are not prepared according to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. And worse than that is that Management does not agree to the recommendation to address that fundamental problem to prepare the district's financial statements in accordance with GAAP. From a financial perspective, there is NOTHING worse than not conforming to GAAP. No one can place any reliance on the accuracy of the financial statements. And as we have seen with this incident, this has come to fruition. Nobody has any idea at this point how bad this problem is. No one can say with any certainty whether the Trans fund balance is $741k or $413k or its less than zero. Which makes it tough to lend money out of that fund to repay the maturing TAW's.
Jorg Manteno December 23, 2011 at 04:45 PM
Charles, I'm not sure why you even concerned yourself with Mr. Montgomery's request. Obviously you have been researching the audit reports from the school and have concern about how the district is addressing recommendations. As I have suggested, perhaps you should join the Finance Committee, wouldn't that be more productive than posting your 'thoughts' on-line? Why wouldn't you join the Finance Committee...it isn't like you have a history of legal actions against the district...right?
Dave Maher December 23, 2011 at 04:58 PM
Mr Montgomery, It's very frustrating to me as a resident and an active supporter of this community that you continue your vendetta against two volunteers in our community. I believe that ALL of our elected officials in this town are doing what they believe is right for the boards they are serving. To constantly read negative and possibly slanderous statement from you throughout the patch articles is appalling. Your link to campaign statements in an attempt at trying to make these two individuals look bad is ridicules and I for one and tired of it. I don't see you sticking your neck out there volunteering your time to support our district. All I see you do is constantly complaining about things with the district with your only solution being to fire the superintendent. I find it interesting that you NEVER point out in your posts that the financial deficits of this district started BEFORE these two members were elected and have been resolved while they have been on the board. Why is that Mr MOntgomery? Mr Montgomery, do you expect our volunteer board members Ms Wright, Mr Doherty, as well as Molitor, Kelly, Aurelio, Malley, and Siston to know everything about the interworkings of the school district? If not, how do expect these board members to know if every form is filled out correctly, or to read the minds of the officials that are giving them (or not giving them) timely information?
Dave Maher December 23, 2011 at 04:59 PM
One more thing Mr Montgomery, Mrs Siston has served on the board for almost three years now and the other 4 board members have been there for almost a year. How about listing their campaign statements on your website as well.
Charles Johnson December 23, 2011 at 05:45 PM
Jorg, to turn your comment back on you: Why are you concerned about why I responded to William's request? What difference do my motivations for commenting on this board have to do with the actual content of my comments? The answer to that question is: None. Its simple, he asked for opinions and I provided mine. As to my posts, I think I've kept to the facts and straight forward logical extensions to any suppositions. I don't know who you think I am, but I've never been a part of any legal action. I have no dog in this fight. But I am interested in what happens here.
William Montgomery December 23, 2011 at 08:33 PM
Hi Dave, First of all I like that you support your friends. But, as most of us know, friends are not always perfect or correct. Second, I love the way you throw out the term "possibly slanderous". Is that supposed to scare me? It does not Dave! Third, I admire all of those who serve on Boards for nothing or little money. But it does not mean that I have to agree with them or question how well they are doing their job as a member of a Board. Remember, they are there to serve us, the residents and taxpayers. Fourth, Dave you need to do a lot research on the events that have taken place with District 113a finances over the last 5 years. In my opinion and that of many others our District 113a financial management HAS BEEN, IS, and CONTINUES TO BE AWFUL. The Board Members need to start correcting the problems. Tonight, I hope they start by FIRING one of the main causes of these problems - Mr. Ricker. And Fifth Dave, (No, I am not taking The Fifth Amendment!) I stand by what I say and will continue to do so! You too can do the same! This what our Country is all about - FREEDOM!
William Montgomery December 23, 2011 at 08:36 PM
CORRECTION! "This IS what our Country is all about - FREEDOM!"
Dave Maher December 23, 2011 at 10:40 PM
Mr Montgomery, While I am not a proponent of reposting, sometimes it is necessary "I find it interesting that you NEVER point out in your posts that the financial deficits of this district started BEFORE these two members were elected and have been resolved while they have been on the board. Why is that Mr MOntgomery?" In addition, I would like to mention a few other things. I have spent a significant amount of time going through financial and other documents from our district. What you seem to forget is that the financial stabilization of this district has already begun. 1. The previous and current boards have spent at least three years cutting expenses. 2. We have run a surplus in this district for at least 2 full school years. 3. We have a balanced budget for the 2011 and 2012 school year. 4. We have replaced our business manager (who, coincidentally filled out these documents incorrectly). 5. The district has changed auditors 6. The district has re-evaluated PMA and chose to keep them. 7. The district has closed a school deemed not necessary for the current enrollment. Mr. Montgomery, obviously you haven't been paying attention the last 3 years. If the superintendent gets terminated, this won't be the first change this, and previous, board have made for the betterment of the district. Thanks for noticing!!!
Dave Maher December 23, 2011 at 10:43 PM
Mr Montgomery, One more question, didn't this board already begin the process of finding a new superintendent?
Jorg Manteno December 23, 2011 at 11:57 PM
Great points Mr. Maher!
William Montgomery December 24, 2011 at 12:04 AM
Dear Dave, I know you want to point out all the things that have been done recently to supposedly improve the operation of District. HOWEVER, after all of your 7 points listed above we still have big problems. In the eyes of SMART PEOPLE we are losing the game. Our credit rating stinks and probably will continue for some time to come. The State School Board lacks confidence in our financial management. We need to change the way things are being done. Let's look for solutions that will get us out of this mess. For one thing I suggest that the Board get a committee of highly qualified business people (and we have some really smart ones who live in our District) to advise the Board on how get District 113a to go from a BBB rating to AAA+ rating. So Dave, why don't we have lunch in the next couple of weeks and start a new pact to get us on the right track?
Jorg Manteno December 24, 2011 at 01:21 AM
Mr. Montgomery, I have yet to see a positive or adequate solution to the districts financial problems yet offered by you or any of the other FOIA police. As a taxpayer and member of this community I am appalled by the negativity and harrassment that this small group of individuals have done to Lemont. I,too, have been watching, researching, and following the school situation closely. NOT ONCE...and I state ONCE, have you offered a responsible solution to the districts financial woes. The money that the district has wasted on legal bills from FOIA's and lawsuits is ridiculous, along with the costs of personnel for the time spent on this constant badgering. Mr. Maher, thanks for taking the time to 'pay attention' and 'noticing'. Great points made!
Hank Olenick December 24, 2011 at 04:55 AM
Jorg, Tim, Lisa, whatever, the FOIA police would not exist if public information was made available to the taxpaying pubic upon request. Instead we are made to jump through hoops to get information as to how our hard earned tax dollars are spent. I believe it's called transparency.
Jorg Manteno December 24, 2011 at 01:49 PM
Hank, you show me another school district that is harassed nearly as much as this one. You can't, because this is totally unheard of. Most districts get perhaps a handful of FOIA requests a year, not hundreds that cost it over 30,000 a year. Why don't the FOIA police start reimbursing the district the costs of these requests instead of putting the cost of this harrassment on the rest of us taxpayers? I believe it is called cheap.
Hank Olenick December 24, 2011 at 04:59 PM
Jorg, Tim, Lisa, whatever, the FOIA police would not exist if public information was made available to the taxpaying pubic upon request. Simple enough.
Quizzical December 30, 2011 at 09:07 PM
Hey Jorg- know how you are always calling people slanderers? Well here is an article from Missouri dates Dec 28 th that is focused in our late Superintendent. They seem to still remember about the deeds he did there and can relate to his deeds here: http://www.callnewspapers.com/Articles-Opinions-i-2011-12-28-257844.112112-Holiday-season-brighter-for-Lemont-Ill-residents.html
Hank Olenick December 30, 2011 at 09:33 PM
THANK YOU!!! Cathy Karpiesiuk . I believe this article is a must read for ALL Lemont taxpayers, not just us "kooks."
Sue Johnson December 30, 2011 at 11:31 PM
Remember the school board election was AFTER the Feb. notice from the state explaining the audit problem. I would guess ricker was nervous about the election, and who would be in control. If he lost his job before the end of the 2010-11 school year, he would not have reached the magic 5 yrs needed to be vested in the Illinois teacher retirement system. Now that he made it thru, he is elegible for the Illinois retirement, and that is in addition to his current MO retirement. The man has many undesirable traits, but he is not stupid. He knows how to communicate... he does it thru the Patch comments quite well. It seems he underestimated the patience of his supporters, and his attempt at self preservation cost him in the end....not financially, unfortunately , but certainly his reputation. It takes character to admit being wrong, Anyone who still so vehemently supports him now is either a relative or someone who is more concerned about themselves than the students of sd113a.

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