The Santa Fe school board accepted a “clean” audit for the 2021 fiscal year at a meeting Thursday, but those involved in monitoring the district’s finances expressed frustration over late payments from the New Mexico Public Education Department.
“Overall, great audit,” said Audrey Jaramillo, a managing partner at Jaramillo Accounting Group, which oversaw the district’s 2021 audit.
The audit showed the district spent $18.7 million in federal funds during the 2021 fiscal year.
Auditors identified six finding areas in which the district was shown to be out of compliance with state laws, down from the more than 20 identified in 2016.
Academy for Technology and the Classics had zero findings, according to the audit.
One district finding was related to $8 million the district had to appropriate from a capital projects fund in May 2021 to fund operations like payroll at the end of the 2020-21 school year, “which is not allowed, at all,” Jaramillo said.
“This is something the districts were struggling with at year’s end,” she added, because the Public Education Department had not reimbursed local districts in time for money owed from state-funded initiatives.
The state was also late to release the June distribution of funds from the enrollment-based formula known as the state equalization guarantee, which accounts for about 90 percent of the budget for public school districts.
“Those funds were not available but payroll had to be paid,” Jaramillo said.
The district replaced the $8 million in July, according to the audit.
She said the state still owes the district about $3 million, and some of the owed money is “very old.”
“The state needs to take a look at their internal processes and make sure they’re allocating the districts’ funds to them timely,” she said.
Jaramillo added that her auditing firm has continually urged the district to contract with an accounting firm that might provide training on governmental accounting and financial statements.
The district’s other findings included deficits in activity funds for extracurricular activities and athletics and overspending in instruction and support funds.
The human resources department received a finding, as some contracts were found to be executed past deadline during the 2021 fiscal year, and at least five new district staff members never received required substance abuse training after being hired.
The district since has taken action ensure the staff members undergo the training, according to the audit.
Also at Thursday’s meeting, the board heard an initial reading of a policy that would allow a student’s primary caregiver to come to school to administer medical cannabis to the student, if they had the proper medical card and diagnosis.
The policy, if passed, would require the medical cannabis be in capsule, extract or concentrate form.
Vapes, edibles and topical products would not be allowed to be administered on site at school.
Students wouldn’t be allowed to carry cannabis on campus, and nurses would not be authorized to keep it for them or administer it due to federal laws that prohibit it.