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Fraud Concerns Force Alachua County After-School Program To Monitor Funds

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Employees of an after-school care program now have to closely monitor fees after a state audit found a possible lack of accountability.

The Alachua County School District Extended Day Enrichment Program collected $3.9 million in fees during the 2014-2015 fiscal year, and the district needs to ensure every dollar is accounted for, the state auditor said.

The fee-supported childcare program provides after-school care for students at 32 elementary and middle schools.

The school district’s annual financial audit, found there are not enough personnel to appropriately account for fee collections.

According to the audit, the state recommended that employees have designated duties of recording student attendance and collecting, depositing and recording fees. The state also recommended independent audits of student attendance and recorded fee collections and deposits.

“The district office is checking every single month now on every single school,” said Angel Londrie, Alachua County Public Schools EDEP county coordinator.

Before the audit, occasional spot-checks were made to verify matches between student attendance records and fee collection.

James Stultz, an audit director for the State of Florida Auditor General, wrote in an email that “the reason we report on these matters is, because without appropriate controls, errors or fraud may not be prevented or, should they occur, may not be timely detected.”

Cases of fraudulent activity in public school districts have occurred throughout the state.

Last year, a school bookkeeper in Hallandale Beach, Florida, was arrested for failing to deposit funds into the school’s bank account as required by her job. She allegedly kept more than $10,720 for herself.

The state audit recommended having a designated employee at each location to check the numbers.

That’s not going to happen in Alachua County, school district spokeswoman Jackie Johnson said, because “there was simply no way the district could do this and still keep the EDEP program affordable for parents.”

A portion of the program’s students participate in the free or reduced lunch program, which qualifies them for a discounted fee. Parents can fill out a form to see if they qualify for reduced part-time weekly fees — as low as $10 for the first child and $8.50 for each additional sibling.

Johnson said hiring someone new would price these families out of the program and leave some students without an after-school option from the district.

The audit also noted that fee audits were not prepared during the 2014-2015 school year.

District personnel said fee audits had not been prepared because software did not produce revenue summaries that considered the program’s complicated fee structure and variable attendance policies.

Since then, the software has been updated to produce revenue summaries for the 2015-2016 school year.

Internal controls, including more extensive documentation, have been implemented as a result of a district staff meeting with Florida’s auditor general. The district is working to eliminate cash payments for more secure fee collection, Johnson said.

Misty Martello, personnel at the EDEP’s district office said, the collected fees go toward necessities such as supplies for activities and payroll. The program has been serving students since 1985.

About Gemima Rosier

Gemima is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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