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Locals tell IC school board to monitor spending

BY MEGHAN HORIHAN | OCTOBER 18, 2011 7:20 AM

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Community members are still concerned the Iowa City School Board is spending their tax dollars on unnecessary programs.

During a public forum on the Iowa City School Board audit Monday, citizens said they want School Board members to improve communication and make more responsible spending a priority.

Board members were receptive to the criticism, citing the audit as the first step toward creating a more open relationship between the School Board and the community.

"[The audit] is the first step for the district to look at mistakes being made to create better transparency with the public," School Board member Jeff McGinness said.

The School Board has faced several financial issues in the recent past, including accounting errors exposed by an external audit in August. The errors included a failure to obtain certification for employees funded by federal programs and improper segregation of duties over cash receipts, bank-transfer functions, and student-activity funds.

"There needs to be an upgrade on facilities and provide better programs for students," McGinness said. "We have to learn to do better with less."

Community members said Monday the School Board is spending too much money on programs it is not using effectively — including SchoolDude — a program that tracks the costs for all the schools in the district.

"There needs to be an equal chance to do business with the district," said Ken Funk, a retired school employee, and the program could be key to keeping track of work orders. Funk also said the program, if used appropriately, could help determine what kind of maintenance need to be completed in buildings throughout the district.

Attendees also said school officials spent too much money on RSP & Associates — a consulting company the board hired for $50,000 to assist it with redistricting in 2009.

Julie Van Dyke, who ran for the board, said the use of the company wasn't necessary because the University of Iowa Geography Department at could have provided the same services for less.

The forum was run by Phil Hansen, a representative from Synesi Associates, which has been hired to run the audit. Hansen said a survey will go out to the staff throughout the district within a few weeks, and officials with Synesi will look over the feedback to determine what the next big move will be.

Phil Hemingway, a City High parent who ran for Iowa City School Board this fall, said the focus of the board is too narrow, and he suggested the board strip everything down to get a true benefit from the audit.

Hemingway also said the board should re-evaluate the $39,000 contract with those who conduct maintenance work at each school to determine the true cost.

The districts' community-relations coordinator, Kate Moreland, said the audit needs to focus on human resources, technology, food service, facilities, and business office.


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