State auditor general moves up Lehighton SD audit
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said this week he has moved up the timeline to begin an audit of the Lehighton Area School District, citing its “struggle with a multimillion dollar budget deficit.”
“Local residents who are concerned about the district’s governance and financial management have asked me to conduct an audit,” DePasquale said in a news release. “It’s important for the adults who are running the district to remember that the best interests of students should always be their primary focus.”
DePasquale’s last audit of the district was conducted in 2015. The new audit will cover July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2018. It was originally scheduled to begin later this year.
Lehighton Business Administrator Patricia Denicola said the Auditor General’s office performs routine state audits of school districts every few years.
“As a CPA and former public accounting auditor, I am looking forward to the state audit,” she said. “Audits provide useful information and often recommend improved operational procedures.”
According to the news release, the audit will focus on areas that may include financial stability, administrator contract buyouts, school safety, teacher and administrator certification, transportation operations, bus driver qualifications, and overall district governance.
DePasquale notified district officials before the start of the audit work.
“Following my audit recommendations can help districts overcome obstacles and focus on improving student education, as the remarkable turnaround in the Reading School District has proven,” he added.
Late last month, Lehighton approved a 1-mill property tax increase to help slice what was once a proposed $4.5 million shortfall down to $2.5 million for its 2019-20 budget.
Superintendent Jonathan Cleaver said the board will get monthly reports detailing exactly what is remaining in each account.
Denicola, who replaced Brian Feick in March, told the board that medical claims paid from July through March, totaling $3.5 million, were not shown as expenditures on the books.
Throughout the budget process, Denicola said, she has used prior years’ actual expenditures and the actual expenditures to date in 2018-19 to form the 2019-20 budget.
The board, in June, also unanimously approved seeking proposals from firms willing to do a forensic audit of the district’s finances.