Huntsville City Schools cancels special called meeting amid budget 'crisis'

WAAY 31 found out why the meeting was canceled.

Posted: Aug. 15, 2018 3:08 PM
Updated: Aug. 15, 2018 10:50 PM

Huntsville City Schools canceled their special call board of education meeting for today. Yesterday school board members announced they'd have the meeting today.

Director of communications, Keith Ward stated in an email that, "Article V, Section 2 of the Board Bylaws allow the president of the Board of Education to call a special meeting with 24 hours’ notice. Even though the meeting was called in accordance with the bylaws, it has created a hardship for a board member. We are canceling tonight’s special session and will revisit the agenda item in the next meeting of the Board of Education."

The meeting was canceled because of a scheduling conflict with one of the board of education members.

The only line item on the agenda was "Consideration of Chief School Financial Officer Personnel Action."

The President of the board Elisa Ferrell told WAAY 31 they were not considering firing the CFO of the district, but she could not give more details about what was going to be talked about at the meeting.

She did tell WAAY 31 the board will be deciding between a forensic audit and a regular audit to determine how the district got into dire financial straights. 

J. Kevin Smith is an accountant in Huntsville and he said an error like this is made for one of two reasons.

"Cause it to be misleading because they didn't know what they were doing and just made a mistake, or they could have done it intentionally to try and mislead, so they're getting away with something," said Smith.

A forensic audit looks at a lot of specific transactions and a regular audit looks at budget procedures and mistakes in how those procedures were followed.

"If they're just looking for errors then a forensic audit is really not necessary, cause forensic audits are looking for fraud," said Smith.

Ferrell told WAAY 31 Initial estimates for a forensic audit is $2 million for every year they decide to audit.

Board member Pam Hill has called for a five-year audit in board meetings, which would cost the district $10 million dollars.

Ferrell did not have estimates for how much a regular audit would cost.

Smith said it likely took some time for this issue to snowball to this point.

"I don't think it was one transaction. It would be recording the same thing incorrectly over and over again," said Smith.

According to Smith, a regular audit would take roughly sixty days to complete and a forensic audit, which is much more in-depth, would take roughly 200 days for every year audited.

Those time frames would shrink if multiple people were working on the audit.

The board of education will have a special budget meeting next Thursday at 4 p.m. Followed by the regularly scheduled board meeting at 5:30 p.m. where they will be talking in depth about their next moves.

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