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Transportation Audit Shows District 113A Owes State Another $260K, Bringing Total to $589K

The Illinois State Board of Education completed an audit of the district's 2009-10 transportation claim last month, finding that another $260,705 is owed for unallowable reimbursements.

UPDATED: Thursday, 1 p.m.

An audit of the 2009-10 transportation claim made by determined the district owes the state another $260,705 for "unallowable reimbursements," district officials confirmed Wednesday.

The total owed to the Illinois State Board of Education is now $589,956—.

District 113A Interim Superintendent Robert Madonia confirmed he received a letter from the ISBE External Assurance Division on March 29 regarding the audit findings. Board Member and official district spokeswoman Lisa Wright also confirmed the news.

Patch obtained the official letter Wednesday through a Freedom of Information Act request. (A PDF file of the document can be viewed to the right of this article.)

In the letter, ISBE officials stated that District 113A owes $236,423 for regular transportation during the 2009-10 school year, and another $24,282 for special education transportation, Madonia said.

The money was received by the district during the 2010-11 school year, based on the state's procedure for disbursing transportation funds.

According to the letter, the adjustment was forwarded to the ISBE Division of Funding and Disbursements for application to future claims.

District 113A board members in January after she expressed concern that it was prepared exactly the same as the one adjusted by the state auditors for the previous fiscal year. At the time, Germany estimated the amount owed to be about $295,000.

Germany called the state board about the issue Jan. 25, and just two days later an ISBE representative requested specific documents to audit.

The move came just one month after former District 113A Superintendent Tim Ricker —$305,056 for regular transportation and $23,900 for special education transportation.

Per the state's request, District 113A agreed to pay back the reimbursements by making reductions in excess of $100,000 to its transportation claims over the next three years.

Board members have yet to discuss a course of action for the most recent adjustment, Madonia said.

"The board has not discussed (the audit adjustment) yet or considered options for repayment," he said. "We're in a holding pattern until we have a little more direction from the state."

Wright said the issue will likely be addressed during their next business meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at , 16100 W. 127th St.

According to Madonia, the district will likely have two options for repaying the additional adjustments: pay one-third of the total amount each year for the next three years like the original adjustment, or issue a funding bond that would allow the district to utilize money from the bond and interest fund.

The second option was discussed by the board during a Februrary board meeting. According to Madonia, the money in the bond and interest fund has accumulated to about $1,690,000. The funds, he said, are available to cover general obligation debt.

During the meeting, board members expressed interest in issuing a working cash bond, which would reallocate the money to a new working cash fund. The district is ; approval is required since it would require an update to the district's financial plan.

If the district were to issue a funding bond, it would have no impact on Lemont taxpayers, Madonia said.

Despite the findings of the transportation audit, Madonia said District 113A's plan for financial recovery remains on track.

"Based on current projections, the district will be off the state's financial watch list by June 30, 2013," he said. "The adjustment is large, but we have been fiscally responsible and are in a position to cover our liabilities."

Madonia commended Germany and District 113A board members for responding quickly and taking responsibility for the errors.

"None of the individuals who made those errors are currently working in the district, but we have still taken the appropriate steps to ensure this type of thing does not happen again," he said. "I think there's something to be said for the fact that we were transparent about the issue and immediately notified the state. I don't believe the claim would have been audited if we hadn't been honest about the mistakes."

Amanda Luevano April 12, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Felix, I didn't mention it because I also obtained the document through FOIA and did all my own reporting. I didn't rely on their story for mine, so there is no need to mention them. I doubt they mention Patch on their stories. It's just not common practice in journalism when you do your own reporting. I got the FOIA yesterday and confirmed with Lisa Wright and interviewed Dr. Madonia.
Ann Paul April 12, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Obviously Jorg, you should even know this, the school budget contains the transportation fund in which is approved by the school board before being submitted to the state board of education. The drastic increase in funds should have been questioned by the elected officials in place due to the amount being doubled for what should have been and was in the past. You would think that with a licensed CPA on the board, it would've raised red flags everywhere. For that particular budget, Karen Siston abstained from the vote. She did not approve that budget.
Ann Paul April 12, 2012 at 05:58 PM
You are right on John. Years ago, Janet Hughes was very outspoken that we needed a forensic audit which could have shed light on what was going on. But, the BOE repeatedly shut her down. No matter what you may think of her, she took a lot of heat for trying to get answers and in hindsight, looks like she was right. We needed that audit. So I would expect more surprises to keep coming up.
Jorg Manteno April 12, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Ann-your lack of understanding of what a forensic audit is and a budget is laughable. You do understand that a budget is completely different than reimbursements...obviously not. Staff is required to fill out reimbursement claims for the state to receive allowable monies for expenses that are approved. It is common practice for the state to review claims and adjust as needed. If the reimbursements received are more than allowed, adjustments are done to refund the state. If the district did not receive all the monies allowable (erred in favor of the state), the district is just out of luck and would not receive those monies (from my understanding). Ideally the claims are done correct the first time, but if an error is to be made, better in favor of the district-since this district is poorly strapped for revenue due to the low tax rate. Forensic audit is done when theft is suspected and would cost the district probably well over $50,000-maybe over $100,000. Since no theft has ever been discovered or suspected (even though false allegations have been made by certain individuals in the community), this would be a waste of taxpayers dollars. It is a shame that the district and taxpayers have already had to waste money on individuals false allegations. Perhaps the district or the state should seek reimbursement for all false allegations and frivolous lawsuits. Don't you agree Ann?
martin finn April 12, 2012 at 11:31 PM
This was predicted by mr Quinn I believe when the first years problem was announced. Behavior patterns are somewhat predictable aren't they. Wouldn't someone notice a roughly 100% increase in reimbursements year over year? Either on the state side or on the district side. Despite probably no change in district enrollment and transportation needs. The state probably didn't because they have too many taxing bodies and way too many districts (consolidate please!) The district side knew what was going on and was desperate for money so crossed their fingers. (a hail mary pass.) And why not, apparently, the money is yours until you get caught and once caught there is no fine no penalty. The government revenue agencies sure aren't that forgiving.

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