WESTMINSTER – The Maine audit firm examining the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union’s financial books sent a letter saying the school district records are messy and inaccurate, based on widespread “material inaccuracies”.
The December 10 letter from RHR Smith & Company of Buxton, Maine, was released Tuesday afternoon by Acting Superintendent Andrew Haas, two days after CFO Flora Pagan’s abrupt departure. He wrote that he made the letter public for the sake of “transparency.” The audit letter covers the fiscal year which ended in June.
“Our auditors, RHR Smith & Company … identify certain areas of serious concern in our financial record keeping. Their work indicates that there are many material financial inaccuracies in our records. It is clear from their findings that the supervisory union has a lot of work to do to bring its financial accounting up to standard. We are committed to doing whatever is necessary to achieve this goal, “Haas wrote in an email to school board members and the secretary. of State for Education, Dan French, among others.
“It is important that we maintain transparency at all times so that our community is aware of the situation and our efforts to bring our files into compliance,” he added.
âI have informed the Education Agency, our advice and now the public. We will work with experienced professionals to resolve any issues identified during the audit. We hope that we can quickly move forward in areas of concern and develop budgets and data that can be trusted, âhe wrote.
âThe supervisors union will quickly hire a new sales manager who will have the skills to ensure the accuracy of our financial data,â he wrote.
At a regular Bellows Falls Union High School board meeting on Monday night, Haas mentioned that he was already looking for Pagan’s replacement and said one option was to bring in a CFO at the retreat to help him, at least temporarily.
Smith, the audit firm, said he had been working on the four city’s school district financial books for six weeks and had still not been able to reconcile them. These school districts include Rockingham, Westminster, Grafton and Athens.
He listed five major areas of “material misstatement”: salary obligations (Medicare), income assessments, pension obligations, expense allocation and general ledger accounts.
The auditor’s letter added that the financial books had “slipped” over the past year. The cabinet wrote: “the books are still not reconciled”.
Jessa Westclark of Grafton, president of the supervisors union, pointed out in an email that there was no suggestion of fraud.
“Whoa, no fraud. No evidence of wrongdoing. The numbers given to listeners were completely inaccurate in several categories,” she wrote in an email.
âOn the payroll side, we verified that the payroll checks and deductions for staff are correct; this is the first thing I checked,â Westclark added.
She said that even if the current audit covered the year that ended in June, financial problems would affect school districts in the future. âIt also affects our ability to create budgets for Town Meeting 2022,â she added.
Pagan, of Proctor, Vt., Was put on administrative leave by Haas last Thursday, and she resigned hours later.
Principals contacted on Tuesday afternoon were not entirely surprised by the highly critical content of Smith’s audit letter, saying Haas briefed them behind closed doors of the issues he was having.
Haas, the district’s director of special education, was appointed acting superintendent in early September, following the abrupt resignation of former superintendent Christopher Pratt, the man who hired Pagan in the summer of 2020. His deputy superintendent, Lynn Carey, also resigned immediately, claiming that she and Pratt “were a team”.