Your school district, which is asking you for more than $71 million dollars for its operating budget, doesn’t believe in changing auditors. Your SAU, which administers the business affairs of the school district to the cost of $1.5 million dollars, also doesn’t believe in changing auditors. The district has been in existence 51 years and I don’t know when, if ever, the district has changed auditors. Every March I ask that we change auditors. Every year the board stifles yawns and ignores me.
Public companies regularly change auditing firms. This standard best practice is to ensure the auditing company and the company being audited do not get too comfortable with one another.
If you watched the last school board meeting on Jan.26, you would have seen all six members in attendance trot out rehearsed objections to changing auditors.
This is why I am taking the question to you in the form of a Citizen’s Petition to be on the ballot on March 14.
In being subject to RSA 21-J:19, shall the Timberlane Regional School District be required to change auditing firms every four years or fewer, starting with the 2016/17 audit year, and that no auditor or firm be reappointed within eight years of their last appointment? (Majority vote required.)
Six members of your school board voted NOT to recommend this sensible warrant article to you – Bealo, Collins, Guide, Sherman, Spero and Ward. (Dube, Green and Sapia were absent.)
SAU henchman, Rob Collins, began the criticism of the warrant article with the bold lie that the RSA cited had “…nothing to do with the subject matter of the Citizen Petition.” He further said,”The RSA actually states that the entities may have annual audits. It doesn’t say they have to…” The RSA that Mr. Collins abuses is reproduced at the end of this posting for your review.
Collins then went on to say it would be “a recipe for disaster” to change auditors the same time we were changing business administrators at the SAU. (Mr. Stokinger is retiring as of June 20, 2017.) Really? This reminds me of a time I went to the SAU office to review a document that was in a filing cabinet. Mr. Stokinger was absent and not one staff member could locate the filing cabinet in which this document was placed. I doubt many auditors, except perhaps for the ones we currently have, would stand for that. Perhaps that’s the “disaster” Mr. Collins imagines.
Sue Sherman chimed in to complain that requiring regular auditor changes is “…extending way beyond what we [the board] should be doing here.” She doesn’t know, evidently, that the board orders the audit and is the party to whom it should be delivered.
Greg Spero, not to be left out, said “The timeline constraints…. handcuffs us.” Let’s just understand this. We don’t know when in the last 51 years we changed auditors but let’s not rush things!
Dan Guide, trying to look responsible said he was in favor of changing auditors but it is not the time. Okie dokie, then! Let’s wait another 51 years to revisit this.
Rob Collins, mysteriously the font of all knowledge then contributed, “Over the years, over 16 different auditors have come through.” I’d like to know how he learned this when Mr. Stokinger would admit to knowing about only the last 12 years of audits when I questioned him at a public meeting. Collins is saying that because the same firm employs different individual auditors that it is the same as employing a whole new auditing firm. He says this with a straight face.
Then Superintendent Metzler said that by having a different auditor for Timberlane, the cost advantage of having Hampstead, the SAU and Timberlane audited by the same firm would be lost. That was the same argument used for years for why Hampstead and Timberlane had to have the same food service company. Hampstead broke away and reports being overjoyed with their new food service provider. Based on what the TRSB was led to believe, we would have expected chaos, disaster and skyrocketing food service bills for both school districts! It turned out we just had happy children at Hampstead.
The Final Straw Man
Finally Collins questioned how many school district auditing firms are available to be able to change every four years. Plenty is the answer. Just check out the NH Society for Chartered Accountants website for a search engine that brings up 27. This ample number is not even a complete sample because not all firms are members of this organization.
You must Demand It
When pressed during public hearing on the budget, all board members but Collins said that they would respect the will of the voters, if this citizen petition passed- whether or not it is legally binding. This means, if you vote to change auditors, the majority of the future board said they would abide by your wishes. But it is going to take a vote by you for them to do the right thing.
Taxpayers should wonder why 6 members of your school board are so set against standard good business practice. Irresponsibility and a cult-like devotion to the superintendent will get you far. It certainly shouldn’t get you re-elected.
RSA 21-J:19 Audit. –
I. Any town, or school district, or village district or precinct, at the annual meeting or at a special meeting, or the selectmen of any town, or the governing body of any city, or the school board of any school district, or the commissioners of any village district or precinct, may hire a certified public accountant or a public accountant licensed by the state under RSA 309-A:8 to conduct such an audit within one year after the close of the municipality’s fiscal year in accordance with audit guidelines and applicable statutes.
II. Every audit made by independent public accountants licensed under RSA 309-A:8, except examinations for special limited purposes, shall cover the accounts and records of all officials responsible for the receipt, custody, and disbursement of public funds. The audit reports shall include a summary of findings and recommendations regarding compliance with applicable statutory provisions of law, and the adequacy of accounting and business procedures pursued by the unit of government examined. Management letters, so-called, shall be included as part of the official audit findings and recommendations. Contracts executed between local units of government and counties and independent public accountants shall stipulate that all accounts and funds of the governmental unit are to be audited and a report of audit prepared in accordance with this section. A written or printed report of every completed audit shall be made to the proper local officials including a summary of the findings and recommendations of the auditors and a copy of such summary shall be published in the next annual report following the fiscal year in which the audit was completed.