The school system emphatically refuted allegations of mishandling funds at the Monday night Board of Education meeting.
At the May 20 Board of Education meeting, Diana Parlier accused the system of mishandling ESPLOST funds, including transferring funds into secondary accounts to generate income and not reporting said income.
Tom Gray, Chief Financial Officer for the school system, laid out why the allegations were unfounded. He recounted the three key complaints relayed by Parlier as illegal co-mingling of ESPLOST funds, transferring of funds to interest-bearing accounts to generate revenue, and no accounting of interest earnings to the board and public.
“An outside auditing firm has reported the ESPLOST program is in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations,” said Gray.
He recounted the most recent audit results which said, “Based on the results of our audit, we conclude that the Fayette County School System’s SPLOST 1, II, and III program is operating in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, the referendums approved by the county’s citizens, and industry best practices.”
The school system is scheduled for their next annual audit in September.
Gray assured that the system is well within their rights to invest ESPLOST funds.
“The other question is do we have the authority to invest public funds, and the answer is yes. Georgia law is very specific about that,” he said. “The school system, by law, has the authority to invest SPLOST funds,”
Additionally, all SPLOST fund deposits are made by the state of Georgia, and all interest or investment earnings are reported monthly to the board.
Superintendent Dr. Jody Barrow called financial responsibility an issue the system takes very seriously.
“We want the community, the taxpayers, all of our citizens to feel very very confident about our financial practices and what we do on a day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year basis. I feel like, with this explanation, we’ve fully covered any questions that were raised about the ESPLOST process that we follow,” he said, inviting the public to review monthly reports that are posted online. “Our books are open all the time, and we encourage those that may have questions to ask those, and we’ll work to try to answer those for you.”