The clock is ticking for Glacier County to pay nearly two-million dollars to the Browning Public School district. The county has officially responded to an audit, addressing a million-dollar discrepancy.
B.P.S. shifted to a separate funding account this January to make sure no money's lost in the future.The two have been going back and forth all year about that money. Now, B.P.S. is putting on the pressure to receive that payment by Friday. The county shared an updated response today. They’ve come up with a correct total of close to $2,000,000 they owe the school district.
According to today's report, Browning Public Schools initially calculated $3,196,318.02 as what the county owed. Now, their new figure sits at $2,181,688.85. The county cites $1,960,450.55 as the running total they will pay back to Browning Public Schools.
Superintendent Corrina Guardipee-Hall says "It was our money in the first place. In the past all our money went to one pot."
The Browning Public Schools Superintendent says that's where the trouble began. We took over all of our funds through the school district and transferred everything we could into our own account."
Now, they're trying to sort out close to $2,000,000. The Glacier County Attorney cites math errors dating back to 2015.
"Enough is enough,” says Guardipee-Hall.
Browning Public Schools first asked for the money back in September. A Glacier County Attorney tells us why payment deadlines were pushed back so many times.
"The Treasurer responded by saying he would but he would only do it according to what the Montana Statute,” said Glacier County Attorney Terryl T. Matt, Esq.
According to Guardipee-Hall, “They asked to wait until July 1st and July 1st came and we didn't receive anything.”
Matt explains "The County always wanted the school district to have their money it was always just a matter of making sure the amount was correct. What happened is the checks were clearing and it takes time for all those things to get done.”
The Coronavirus pandemic also slowed things down but now everyone's just hoping to sort things out soon so the money can go back into the school district’s budget.
“We want to continue to work and build a relationship with the Glacier County Treasurer and the Commissioners because we are a part of Glacier County and we care about each other. For them to hold any part of the payment they owe us is very unfair to our kids. Right now we have to have a One-to-One iPad for every student, that's 2,000 students. It's technology, it's supplies, it's their field trips, teachers. It's everything we do for kids to help enhance their learning. They deserve the very best," said Guardipee- Hall.
She hopes to see the funds in time for Fall semester. Matt expects the money to be fully deposited by Monday.
A full copy of the report is attached.
Glacier County, sharing this release with us:
"This letter is in response to the letter to Treasurer Wilson from Superintendent Guardipee-Hall dated July 13, and Mr. Koenig’s email of July 24. Glacier County agrees that the school is correct in saying that a significant amount of time is not necessary to review the numbers, it does not follow that the County agrees with the School District’s calculations. First and foremost, there is a math error of more than $1,000,000 in the back-up that the Superintendent sent with her letter of July 13. This alone reduces the figure from $3,196,318.02 to $2,181,688.55. This error is illustrated in the attachment to this letter, which correctly calculates the same numbers stated in the District’s back-up document. As the attachment also reflects, additional reductions are required to account for County Oil and Gas Share (“COGS”) funds withheld from the County and differences between the District and County ledgers as of December 31, 2019. As the Superintendent stated in an email to me dated July 15, the District’s business manager and the County Treasurer “have been working on this back and forth.” She described the final number as “a pretty solid number.” Unfortunately, it is not. The number calculated by the school using the school’s own number is $1,960,450.55.
You may or may not be aware of the history of this matter. The last time the county ledger and school’s ledger agreed was June 2015. The same CPA who prepared the District’s back-up to the Superintendent’s letter, Bob Denning, was the County’s bookkeeper from that date until December 2018. He was responsible for balancing the county and school ledgers. He said they reconciled. However, the County’s current auditors reviewed the numbers in May 2019 and reported that Bob's annual report was not reconciling with the county numbers. The County auditors requested Bob's back-up for the annual report in order to see where changes had been made by the county. He replied that he was too busy to get the County this report, and that the additional work would come with a price tag of $60,000. The County had to do without his numbers. The County’s current auditors believe that Bob’s back-up documents should have been readily available. The County also already had paid him for that work. Bob now has been the District’s auditor for several years. The journal vouchers the county has to address are journal voucher errors Denning should have addressed or at a minimum provided proof that he had addressed to the county’s new auditor without a request for additional money. The result is the the County has hired a CPA to assist and address this journal voucher errors. The County Treasurer has represented he will be able to provide to the District by the end of the week a firm number with documentation supporting this number. The county is in full agreement with the District that a final number must be agreed upon right away. If you believe a virtual meeting would be of use in resolving the figure, by all means we will set one up to discuss final numbers. Yours Truly,
-Terryl Matt Glacier County Attorney"