Aztec, Central Consolidated audits are in review

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FARMINGTON — Some San Juan County school districts have received their fiscal year 2017 audit results, and Bloomfield and Farmington Municipal School Districts have both returned with an unmodified opinion — the best opinion given by the New Mexico State Auditor's Office.

An unmodified opinion means that state auditor “feels confident that everything in the financial statements is a true reflection of the entity’s operations,” according to the website. Farmington Municipal School District Superintendent Eugene Schmidt said the opinion is an accomplishment.

“The community should be comforted in knowing that we have a financial and human resources team that takes their jobs very seriously, and with great pride and attention to detail,” Schmidt said. “We’re very proud of the work that these people do. It’s $100 million in people’s money that we are tracking and taking care of, so when the auditor comes back and says, 'Once again, you have an unmodified audit,' our community should be very proud.”

Auditors noted six and seven findings, respectively, in the financial statements for the Bloomfield and Farmington school districts between July 2016 and June 2017. An audit finding identifies a significant deficiency that is not considered a major problem in financial statements, and Schmidt called such findings "minor issues." Auditors recommend solutions for the problems and timelines to implement those solutions.

Bloomfield was cited for not following proper competitive quoting and bid procedures in seven projects, including a parking lot resurfacing project worth $107,400 and a project to install GPS devices on school buses worth $900,000, neither of which went out for competitive bid.

Bloomfield finance director Jodie Maestas said the person in charge of that department, who is no longer with the district, didn’t follow state purchasing guidelines that require at least three quotes for projects in excess of $20,000 or a competitive bid process for any projects worth more than $60,000. Auditors recommended the district comply with the state guidelines or follow sole-source procedures for projects that have a single “valid” contractor.

Farmington school officials disagreed with one of the FY17 audit’s findings that said the district incorrectly pooled funds from other accounts to make up for an over-expenditure on the district’s cash balance, in a case in which a purchase order came in after the end of the financial year, Schmidt said. The district and the auditor disagreed over the interpretation of a reference that requires board approval to transfer money between funds.

Both districts were cited for instances in which personnel completed purchase orders without proper or complete approval. Bloomfield had two purchases worth a total of $4,762.70 made before their purchase orders were approved, and Maestas said the finding is not uncommon for large financial entities with many departments.

Farmington had nine purchase orders worth $13,742 made without approval. The New Mexico Virtual Academy, a semiautonomous school that falls under the district’s financial umbrella, had five purchases worth $69,765 made without approved purchase orders.

Another finding that both districts saw was exceeding budgets — by $3,360 for Farmington and by $1,837 for Bloomfield. Maestas called the over-expenditure “an oversight issue.”

Farmington’s other findings include:

• Eight deposits worth a total of $2,802 that were not taken to the bank within 24 hours.

• Three receipts from the New Mexico Virtual Academy worth a total of $158,816 that were not paid within 30 days of being invoiced.

• Two files for New Mexico Virtual Academy employees that were missing background checks.

Bloomfield’s other findings include:

• Paying a district employee using incorrect federal funding after the employee’s position was restructured. 

• Failing to have proper paperwork regarding special education for Native American students filed on time.

• Failing to notify the New Mexico Public Education Department of the disposal of a district-owned asset.

Maestas said the findings will be “easily corrected” in fiscal year 2018.

“We’ve had some changes in personnel, and I’ve made sure that department heads are fully aware of procedure, and I think we’ll do a good job with that,” Maestas said.

The  FY17 financial statements for the Aztec Municipal School District and the Central Consolidated School District are both in review, according to the state auditor’s website.

Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or mpetersen@daily-times.com.

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