Sewanhaka chided for handling of student fees

The Sewanhaka school district plans to develop a written policy for handling cash receipts by the end of the month after a state audit criticized the lack of such a policy.

Differing procedures for tracking payments across the district’s five schools caused payment records to be out of line with the actual amounts of fees received from students for standardized tests and test-prep courses, according to an audit the state Comptroller’s Office released last Thursday.

“Because District officials did not develop, distribute and implement written procedures for the handling of cash receipts, cash has been collected without sufficient documentation and oversight,” the audit says.

The district will also take other steps to ensure payments are recorded accurately and deposited properly, Superintendent Ralph Ferrie wrote in a response to auditors.

Students and parents pay finance clerks at each individual high school with cash or checks for fees to take Advance Placement, SAT and PSAT tests, preparation courses for those exams, and driver education classes.

The district received $516,212 in testing and test-prep fees and $122,520 for driver education classes between July 1, 2014 and Jan. 31 of this year, the audit says.

Clerks lack clear guidance on how to issue receipts and track those payments, the audit found. They also often did not issue sets of three receipts for each payment as state regulations require, the audit says.

The district’s existing written procedures for handling cash and check deposits were not distributed to finance clerks, and “[a]s a result, they have developed their own procedures and each one accounts for cash receipts differently,” the audit says.

The total payments some schools recorded were different from the actual amount deposited, the audit found. 

In one case, $38,069 in AP test fees were listed on a spreadsheet but $40,664 was deposited, the audit says.

District officials will develop and distribute a written policy for handling cash by Nov. 30, Ferrie wrote in his response. They will also ensure that clerks issue sets of three receipts and use documents to see that school records match deposit records, he wrote.

“The findings and recommendations from this audit pointed out some areas where the District can strengthen its controls over collection of cash for these activities, and will also assist the District in its review of all Business Office procedures,” Ferrie wrote.

The district also plans to hold annual training sessions on the procedures for finance officials and will train a separate person to reconcile payment and deposit records, the response says.

Each school’s procedures may have changed over time because finance clerks were trained by their predecessors and “may have customized their procedures, resulting in various methods to perform the same task,” Ferrie wrote.

Large numbers of students making payments within a short period of time may have also led clerks to create spreadsheets to “hasten the process,” Ferrie wrote.

District officials will work to lower the number of those instances so each student gets a proper receipt, Ferrie wrote.

By Noah Manskar

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The Island Now

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