State auditors say the Kiona-Benton City School District received about $260,000 last school year for special education students that district administrators can't prove were enrolled.
The Washington Auditor's Office reported the finding in an audit released this week. The bulk of the money -- $231,460 -- came from the state and the rest from the federal government.
State officials said the district will have to go through an audit resolution, a process that could require Ki-Be to pay back some of the money if it can't show that students were served.
"We won't know how much, if any, of the money Kiona-Benton will have to return until the resolution is completed," said Nate Olson, a spokesman with the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
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School board Chairman Charles Gray said the district provided more documentation to auditors to resolve some of the questions, but it missed a deadline for it to be included in the audit report.
Ki-Be, like many other districts, receives money to help pay for teaching special education students thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
The audit shows the district reported its special education student enrollment for the 2011-12 academic year before the students were evaluated for their need for special education and before they were assigned learning plans, against federal procedures.
The district said the error was a result of hiring a new office manager who wasn't trained in reporting the student enrollment numbers. The district's special education director didn't catch the errors when the reports were reviewed.
District administrators "(did) not agree to the magnitude of the errors found during the state accountability audit," said the district's response in the state's report. Gray did not give more details.
Auditors recommended the district train its staff so future enrollment counts will be accurate and that supervisors provide proper monitoring.
Matt Miller, a spokesman with the state auditor's office, said in similar situations in the past, the state has sought to recoup money that went to programs that could not show it was needed or that services were provided.
Miller said it's unclear what Ki-Be will be required to do if the district can't provide proper documentation. The district could have to pay some money back but that won't be known for some time.
Ki-Be isn't alone in getting attention from state auditors:
w The Kennewick School District was told it did not meet federal requirements for seeking services. The district spent $276,117 on single-source contracts for special education services in 2011-12. Districts are required to seek competitive bids or rates for those contracts, but administrators claimed an exception because of the specialized nature of the work.
Auditors said the district didn't have documentation supporting those decisions and recommended the district make sure it follows federal purchasing requirements in the future.
w The Pasco School District did not maintain proper documentation showing 178 employees were rightly compensated through a federal grant.
The district received $741,626 from the Improving Teacher Quality grant in 2011-12 and was required to show that teachers and staff were doing work that could be charged to the grant. Auditors said they found $270,829 that had no documentation.
Pasco could have been required to pay that money back to the federal government but other documentation was found verifying the work being done by district employees. The district did not contest the finding but said documentation will be done properly in the future.