PEORIA, IL -- Auditors for Peoria School District 150 told the School Board that they did not find any misuse of funds, after they made a presentation on the district's annual audit at the Nov. 25 board meeting.
But one auditor also said, "we're not looking at everything. We do test samples."
At issue is the district administrators' use of credit cards to buy supplies, pay for travel, food, and other items. Thousands of dollars in unnecessary sales taxes have been paid, the cards show, even though the district is exempt from sales taxes. There are also apparently questionable expenditures on those cards.
During the public comments, limited to two minutes each at this meeting, activist Terry Knapp commended on a $6.50 charge at a fast food restaurant. "I dont understand how you can look at these cards and say everything is glorious, " he said.
Here is a recording of the comment:
The auditors also noted a "lack of segregation of duties" meaning too few people checking on the funds. But that's not unusual, one said.
Controller Dave Kinney said the taxes paid to the district will be down this year, thanks to a $1.5 million tax abatement on bonds and declining property values. A $120,000 home will pay $45 less in taxes this year, he said.
Board president Rick Cloyd said he would only reluctantly approved the abatement, because of a $6 million deficit. A proposed increase in sales taxes, which will be on a referendum at the March 18 primary, would funnel $9 million annually to the district he said.
Knapp and activist Sevino Sierra in the public comments complained about the board starting its meeting 20 minutes late without an apology to those in the audience or an explanation.
No board member or administrator commented on this complaint.
But board member Debbie Wolfmeyer said the board needs to make a decision about the use of Peoria Stadium next year, at its Dec. 16 meeting.
The board previously said no decision would be made until after the results of the referendum.
Sharon Crews questioned the board about when a federal free lunch program for all students was approved, and said it's not in the minutes or on any board agenda. "I do not have an issue with feeding children whose parents cannot feed them," she said, but there are other issues, such as how many are eating, what happens to wasted food if they don't eat the lunches, and who profits from money that is spent.
Her written comments will be posted below later.
Peoria Federation of Teachers Jeff Dutro mentioned a document he has sent to the board regarding the "climate and culture" in the schools, and complained about turnover in staff. "What purpose is there in continually shifting administrators?" he asked.
The board needs to meet with union officials, he said.
Knapp and Crews circulated a letter stating that they both have been designated as "recurrent requesters" under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act because as a group (apparently a group of two) they filed too many FOIA requests. That means the board can delay responding to them. Knapp complained about this situation in his comments.
So much for transparency.
-- Elaine Hopkins
Here are the comments from Sharon Crews:
Information about the Community Eligibility Option was presented at the October 11, 2011, board meeting but not mentioned on the agenda or in the minutes.
District 150 was accepted into the program in August. When did board members first learn about this program? How is such information communicated to you? What role does the board play in major decisions? Why didn’t taxpayers have a right to learn why the District was applying for a volunteer Federal program that pays for the lunches of all children in a school when 40% meet the low-income requirements?
Why shouldn’t we hear your individual opinions before, not after, major decisions are made? More importantly, why was this decision made without your vote? Your policy states that final authority for all matters concerning the District lies with the Board of Education and policy states that deliberation, debate, or decision-making should not be conducted by e-mail. That implies that public board meetings are the appropriate venue for making final decisions—isn’t that the purpose of the consent agenda? Again when can we expect transparency—which includes discussion?
I do not have an issue with feeding children whose parents cannot afford to feed them. I have some questions which, I believe, should have been discussed before the vote. What if a considerable number of children choose not to eat cafeteria food? Does the cafeteria prepare it for everyone and throw away the food not eaten? Or does the cafeteria estimate and prepare enough food for those who usually eat the free lunch? Does the federal government provide a flat amount for each school per day? Who profits from any money not spent? Also, if as planned the program ends in 2015 or 2016—what then? -30-