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Audit delay proves costly

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By Optic Editorial Board

Las Vegas City Schools has been trying to get caught up on its financial audits for years, and while there have been signs of progress in that time, the district just hasn’t been able to get the job done.

Up to now, the community as a whole has pretty much given the East school board and administration a pass on these lapses, recognizing that many of the problems resulting in the late audits were inherited from prior administrations. There haven’t been any real consequences to the district for not getting caught up on its audits. At least that was the case until last month.

So what’s changed? A lot.

According to the state Public Education Department, state lawmakers passed legislation earlier this year requiring a school district to be up to date on its audits in order to receive emergency funding. To give you an idea of how important that money has been to the district in the past, last fiscal year alone, Las Vegas City Schools received about $700,000 in emergency funds. Without it, the district wouldn’t have been able to balance its budget.

Without the prospect of any emergency funding for the fiscal year that started July 1, East officials had to resort to eliminating positions in order to submit a balanced budget to the state. 

To be fair, there’s no guarantee that Las Vegas City Schools would have gotten emergency funding from the state for the current fiscal year even if it had been up to date on its audits. After all, state officials are also saying that East receives more money than districts of similar size that are similarly situated. Still, the fact that the district isn’t even eligible because of the audit situation should have every parent and taxpayer in the district up in arms.

It’s hard to fault lawmakers for adding the mandate to state law. The intent of the provision, after all, is a good one — to hold school districts accountable. 

And while we sympathize with the situation that the current Las Vegas City Schools superintendent and school board inherited, it’s high time that they resolve this matter once and for all so that the district can have a shot at emergency funding next year. 

We realize that that’s easier said than done. But it’s also worth noting that other government entities — like New Mexico Highlands University and the city of Las Vegas — have managed to dig themselves out of similar situations. 

According to the state auditor’s website, the district submitted its 2011 audit last week. The district’s 2012 audit is nearly eight months late, while the audit for the fiscal year that just ended June 30 is due on Nov. 15. 

Let’s get this done.