New audit criticizes Grandview School District's use of funds

A new audit by Missouri’s top watchdog criticizes the way the Grandview School District handled millions of dollars approved by taxpayers for bond projects.

State Auditor Tom Schweich released and presented the report to the public on Tuesday evening at Grandview High School. 

Among the findings, the auditor found the school district: misspent bond proceeds on unapproved items like sports uniforms, failed to closely track budgets on specific bond projects, did not competitively bid the sale of bonds to ensure the best interest rate for taxpayers and mismanaged a private partnership requirement with a local bank that was supposed to provide an internship program for students valued at thousands of dollars in in-kind contributions.

"We found a serious deficiency," said Schweich, referencing the failed internship program that earned the bond purchaser a federal tax credit. "The district issued $8.2 million in bonds with the contingency they'd get a $820,000 investment. That investment has not materialized."

Schweich’s office investigated the district’s finances and operations after petitioners collected 1,504 signatures.

One of the petition organizers was Don Fisher, a former school board member of six years.

"Taxpayer money should be more clearly watched, I feel like," Fisher told 41 Action News. "What surprised me the most is money not being spent where it's supposed to be spent."

In response, the district agreed with almost all of the audit’s findings and said it would consider implementing the recommendations for improvement.

In some cases, corrections have already been made. For instance, the district said $117,000 spent on sports and band uniforms was an oversight. A different funding source has since been identified, freeing the bond proceeds for the appropriate use, according to the report.

"We felt like we got a lot of really good insight on how to really improve our practices," Superintendent Dr. Ralph Teran told 41 Action News. "We need to do a better job of organizing, so that we can present information in a better way than we have up until now."

Ryan Kath can be reached at ryan.kath@kshb.com . You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook. 

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