Saturday, December 24, 2016

Audit prompts new controls for New Canaan student funds

New Canaan officials will be keeping a closer eye on funds for student activities after last year’s audit revealed problems in the bookkeeping system.
Significant deficiencies in the student activity fund last year were attributed to flaws in the bookkeeping system, prompting the town to hire an accounting firm to look into how they can improve their practices.
Most of the student activity funds are raised through dues, fees, fundraisers, admission tickets, gifts and donations. These funds are meant to benefit the students for whom the funds were collected — things like field trips and end of school and season celebrations.

During the meeting, Keating and Joseph Centofanti of CohnReznick in Stamford presented the board with several improvements to make sure the town is using the best possible policies to protect student funds.Currently, most of the $422,389 is allocated to high school activities, though the fund is for all schools in the district, said Dr. Jo-Ann Keating, the district’s director of finance and operations at a Dec. 5 Board of Educationmeeting.
“Implementing best practices involves shared accountability for student activity funds,” Keating said. “The buck stops with us. We have to make sure good systems are in place and that they’re followed.”
Centofanti, who has worked with New Canaan before, made several recommendations to the board after interviewing staff on current student activity fund procedures. Centofanti put together a new policy and procedure to better process transactions.
One of the major recommendations included monitoring cash transactions, which Centofanti said are the highest risk area and often make up the majority of sports tickets purchases. Centofanti suggested using cash receipts to help keep a closer eye on cash flow.
Additional suggested best practices included shared accountability between business and school administration, more internal controls, system security and maintenance, and periodic reporting on funds to advisers.
Board Chairman Dionna Carson thanked the two for the clean audit and what she described as a “Herculean task” of cleaning things up from last year.
“As a high school parent, I’ve seen (the controls) on the other side,” she said. “So thank you.”
Moving forward, there will be a focus on promoting electronic transactions over cash when it comes to student activities funds, as well as discussion with high school administration on the ideal amount of leftover funds to keep in the account.

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