Burlington Superintendent's Blog

Student Activity Accounts

The links below are to the district’s financial review of school student activity accounts and the district’s action plan to address the findings from the review.  Both documents were discussed at the school committee meeting of 11/14.  The action items will be agenda items at future school committee meetings.  In addition to these links there are other links to help add context and other factual information.

There was a question asked during the school committee meeting regarding the use of the word audit in the cover letter from Roselli, Clark and Associates because of another statement in the cover letter that the report was not an audit.  The auditor’s response to this question is as follows: “We have to write it that way because its not a GAAP audit. Under the Mass General Law, the regulation states the activities are audited in accordance with the guidelines established by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).  So in following the DESE guidelines we have conducted the audit as required under the law but again it is not a GAAP audit as DESE does not require a GAAP audit…”

The student activity accounts are not the district’s operating budget or revolving accounts.  The student activity accounts reside at each school.  They are typically used for student activities such as field trips at the elementary and middle school level.  The high school student activity account is larger and more varied as there are more student activities.  The significant findings in the audit that require our immediate attention primarily involve the management processes associated with the accounts at elementary and middle school.  The auditor found the high school student activity account to be in compliance.  This account had been audited in prior years.

To provide some specific context to the issue, the link below is to a typical elementary, grade-level, student activity account.  The $150 withdrawal on the statement was to pay for the Tour of Burlington bus.  One of the major findings in the audit is that the we should not have individual grade-level, student activity accounts.  The individual grade-level accounts will be closed and re-opened as a sub-account under one main school-level student activity account under the principal’s authority.  We will request two years of bank statements to review as we close out the accounts.  Like any bank account, only the person who opened (or is identified as the owner) of the account can access the funds or get information like account history.  Long term, we are exploring the option of expanding the current, electronic food payment service to include other activities like field trips to remove any exchange of cash between parent and teacher.  These conversations will be ongoing.  The second link lists all of the known accounts at each school and the balances in each at this time.  We have asked anyone who has opened or inherited a grade level account to share account information with the district.  Our assumption is that everyone is acting in the best interest of children.  The organizational issue of having multiple accounts instead of a single account with multiple sub-ledger designations does not reside with the individuals who opened these accounts.

Sample Grade-Level Student Activity Account

Student Activity Balances – Sheet1

In addition to parent contributions for field trips, there was a question raised about the commissions the schools receive from the photography companies that take pictures of students.  The link below is to the balances from picture commissions.  These balances reside in the building-based, principal accounts that will remain moving forward.  The commissions are included in balances of the known accounts listed above.  The future operation of the principal accounts will be defined in the draft Guidelines linked below.

Photo Commission – Sheet1

The Action Plan was created by our Business Office Officials – Bob Cunha, Director of Finance, Facilities, and Technology and Nichole Coscia,  Business Manager – in collaboration with the CPA firm of Roselli, Clark and Associates.  Ms. Coscia is new to the district and has worked as a Federal Auditor.  We are excited to have added her to our Business Office staff.  She will be conducting annual reviews of these accounts with the independent audit occurring every three years by regulation moving forward.  The draft Guidelines linked below will be adopted district wide.  Ms. Coscia will follow up with training in each building to review the guidelines.

Following our action plan will address all of the findings in the audit in two years.  We will ask Roselli, Clark and Associates to conduct another independent audit at that time.  A two-year period is one-year sooner than the aforementioned three-year, external audit required by the new regulations.

Student Activity Action Plan for Agreed Upon Procedures Report 20170630.docx

Burlington Stdnt Actvty Rpt 17

Burlington Public Schools SAA GUIDELINES.docx