"> Fayette News / Bookkeeper accuses school system of mishandling ESPLOST funds

Bookkeeper accuses school system of mishandling ESPLOST funds

During public comments at the May 20 Board of Education meeting, a school system employee lobbed accusations of mishandling ESPLOST funds. Diana Parlier, who said she is a bookkeeper working for the county, asked the Board of Education to investigate what she called major issues with the finance department.

“It’s kind of with a heavy heart I’ve had to express concerns about things that I’ve come to know about improprieties in the financial accounting of educational funds, and my only option to be heard was to come and speak publicly at this meeting,” said Parlier. “I am aware through my work and direct involvement with the finance department that ESPLOST funds are being co-mingled with other accounts, which is against state law. In addition, these funds are being misappropriated and used to generate revenue through interest-bearing accounts where, to my knowledge, there is no accounting for the interest-bearing dollars. And, to be clear, I am referring to millions of dollars.”

She provided the Board of Education with documents she said would show misappropriation, including ESPLOST funds being transferred into secondary accounts for the purpose of generating income.

“The funds are then being held in secondary accounts and are only transferred when right now I, the bookkeeper, primarily want them for payments,” she said. “The interest being drawn off these ESPLOST funds is not accounted for and is not budgeted for and is not disclosed to the taxpayers.”

Parlier asked the Board of Education to launch an investigation into the funds.

“This misappropriation and pretty illegal co-mingling of funds serves as a direct attack against our ability to continue to provide the quality education that should be provided to our children.”

 

Board of Education offers official response

Concerns about the appropriate use of ESPLOST (Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) funds and other financial operations were expressed during public comments at the Fayette County Board of Education regular business meeting on May 20. The school system is in the process of reviewing the allegations.

Each year, the school system prepares a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), and the financial statements contained within that report are reviewed by an independent auditor. The auditor also completes an ESPLOST Performance Audit on the compliance of the use of ESPLOST expenditures based on state law and the voter approved ESPLOST referendum. Throughout the years, the auditor’s report has found that the Fayette County Board of Education is in compliance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America, and no findings have been issued against the school system. The Fayette County Public School System closely follows its own stringent internal controls, along with state and federal regulations, to ensure that taxpayer funds are being used appropriately.

The public can view the CAFR and independent audit reports of financial statements and ESPLOST funds dating back to 2007 on the school system’s website, www.fcboe.org. Click on the “Departments” tab at the top and select “Finance.” Once on the Finance page, click the “Financial Statements and Budget Information” link on the left.

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