Audit says Steilacoom School District needs better record-keeping for school bus funding

Tacoma News TribuneApril 30, 2014 

State auditors want the Steilacoom School District to tighten up record-keeping that determines state funding for school busing.

In 2013, the district received $930,910 for student transportation, which is provided by a company called First Student, under contract with the district.

An auditor’s report released Monday said that the district was missing a major portion of its 2013 student ridership tallies that are supposed to be turned in by bus drivers. Also missing were mileage reports that show how far its school buses travel.

“As frustrating as it is to have an audit finding, we identified needed internal controls,” said Kathi Weight,  superintendent of the district, which has just under 3,000 students.

Weight said the student counts were made by bus drivers, “but documentation to make sure accurate reporting was being done wasn’t occurring.”

She said the district’s finance director identified some of the problems. She also said that the Puget Sound Educational Service District, which provides support services to school districts in the region, offered guidelines that will help Steilacoom monitor records in the future.

“We have made changes to establish stricter internal controls to monitor the private bus company’s activities,” Weight said. She said the changes will ensure all original supporting documentation is retained and ridership data is reported accurately. 

The audit report did not recommend the district pay back any of the transportation funds received. Without documentation, the report said, auditors could not determine if the district was properly funded.

School districts receive part of their transportation funding based on a formula that considers the number of students who ride the bus. Districts must also report the mileage traveled by their buses. Districts are required to report the data to the state three times a year.

In 2013, auditors said, the district could not find bus driver count sheets for either the fall or spring reporting period. The winter count did have driver count sheets for five days, but the district couldn’t say which days they covered.

During the audit, First Student calculated the total riders during the winter count -- but the numbers were lower than those reported by the school district to the state. The auditor found that the district over-reported the number of bus riders by 270.

In addition, auditors said, there were no supporting mileage reports for the buses to show how the district arrived at the 291,678 miles reported for trips to and from school, or the 25,293 miles in field trip mileage.

First Student was able to reconstruct mileage reports based on GPS data from the buses, but those reports came in more than 40,000 miles over what the district had reported.





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