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School board eyes motion for panel, CPA to review Proposition P program


June 01, 2005 - A motion to have the Proposition P districtwide building improvement program reviewed by both an independent committee and a certified public accountant is scheduled to be considered later this month by the Mehlville Board of Education.

The Board of Education will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 16, in the Administra-tion Building, 3120 Lemay Ferry Road.

Five board members voted May 12 to reject a motion to establish an independent panel to review Proposition P. But board members last week discussed a proposal formulated by district administrators and board President Rita Diekemper to solicit requests for proposals from certified public accountants to conduct an independent audit of Proposition P.

Board Vice President Bill Schornheuser's motion to seek proposals from CPAs to conduct an independent audit of Proposition P was seconded by board member Cindy Christopher.

But after Diekemper called for discussion on Schorn-heuser's motion, board member Karl Frank Jr. introduced a "substitute'' motion calling for the formation of both an independent committee to review Proposition P and to seek proposals from CPAs for an independent audit of Propo-sition P.

During the May 12 meeting, Frank had made the motion to establish an independent commission to review the "passage and application'' of the Proposition P district-wide building improvement program. Board member Ken Leach seconded Frank's motion.

But after a lengthy and heated discussion, Diekemper, Schornheuser, Christopher, Secretary Mike Heins and Tom Correnti voted against the motion. Frank voted in favor of the motion, while Leach abstained.

Those voting against Frank's motion cited a number of objections, contending it was "argumentative'' and not "professionally written.'' Some wanted more specifics about how people would be selected to serve on the commission and questioned why people would volunteer to serve on such a panel.

But Frank countered that an independent commission is needed to review Proposition P to regain the public trust and move the school district forward.

Frank's May 12 motion came after Randy Charles, assistant superintendent for finance and the district's chief financial officer, had given a lengthy, comprehensive presentation about the Proposition P districtwide building improvement program. Charles detailed the program from its inception when the Citizens' Advisory Committee for Facilities began meeting to the status of current projects.

Voters in November 2000 approved Proposition P, a nearly $68.4 million bond issue funded by a 49-cent tax-rate increase.

However, the Board of Education voted in November to approve a revised Proposition P budget of $88,927,440.

The revised Proposition P budget represents a roughly 30 percent increase — more than $20.5 million — over the $68.4 million building improvement program envisioned in 2000.

During the May 26 meeting, Superintendent Tim Ricker noted that during the previous meeting, board members had discussed Proposition P and expressed an interest in an independent audit of the districtwide building improvement program.

"Randy (Charles) and I met with Miss Diekemper and proposed just some ideas in relationship to looking at an RFP for an auditing firm to look at Prop P ... We thought it would be best that if this was truly to be independent that we probably should look at firms that are accustomed to doing this kind of work,'' Ricker said.

Information provided to the board estimated the cost of an independent audit at less than $20,000. The information, prepared by Charles, recommended that the board move to direct the district administration to solicit proposals from certified public accountants for an independent audit of the Proposition P construction project and present a report outlining the following:

• Review of financial management/processes.

• Review of current policies and internal control procedures related to construction.

• Summary of recommendations.

Schornheuser asked about the estimate of less than $20,000 for the independent audit, and Ricker said Charles had spoken with the district's independent auditing firm of Mueller, Walla & Albertson in formulating that estimate.

If the board proceeded with the independent audit, Heins asked how the audit would be funded.

Heins said, "... Let's just say it's $10,000 or $8,000. Does it have to come out of operating funds? Can it come out of Prop P funds ...''

"No, it would not be eligible under the language of the ballot for Prop P,'' Ricker said, noting the revenue would come from the district's operating fund.

Leach asked about the motion being recommended to the board.

"Is this in lieu of the motion Karl made before ...," Leach asked, referring to the motion Frank made at the May 12 meeting.

Ricker said, "Well, again ...''

Diekemper interjected, "That motion was defeated, so ...''

Leach said he knew the motion was defeated, but he had given his word to help Frank bring it back before the board.

"... I gave my word on that,'' he said.

Diekemper later said, "Well, I received a letter from Karl indicating that he wanted this to be on the agenda, but there was no — there was no other, I guess, indication of what he wanted. He said an independent, I think audit of Prop P. So I wrote the motion to be an independent audit ... He didn't send like a written motion or anything like that ...''

Ricker said the information provided by the administration was intended to be "structure for the conversation.''

Schornheuser said, "Again, I think this is a very good idea from the standpoint I think it can be done in a timely fashion, which is something that we know doesn't necessarily happen when we get our independent groups together.''

For example, he said, the district's Long Range Planning Committee had been projected to complete its work "about four or five months ago, but anytime you bring in all those volunteers, it's very difficult to keep that moving at a very fast pace. I would hope that we would look at an alternative like this because, again, it's independent and it's done by professionals ...''

Diekemper interjected, "... They're legally independent.''

Schornheuser said, "Right.''

Diekemper continued, "By a business definition of independent.''

With that, Schornheuser moved to approve the recommended motion to solicit proposals from CPAs for an independent audit of Proposition P and his motion was seconded by Christopher.

After Diekemper called for discussion on the motion, Frank said, "Madam President, I move to substitute the following for the motion currently under discussion: The Mehlville Board of Education will form a Proposition P Review Committee ...''

Diekemper interjected, "Well, do we get to vote on the current motion first?''

Ricker explained that Frank had proposed a substitute motion that would be voted on first. Frank then proceeded with his substitute motion:

"The Mehlville Board of Education will form a Prop-osition P Review Committee that will be self-governing; consisting of nine voting members and three non-voting members whom are not currently employed by the district and do not currently serve on the Board of Education. The nine voting members would possess professional experience in the areas of construction, architecture, real estate, finance, law, public relations/marketing, technology, education and general management. Of the three non-voting members, one member will ensure the committee is child-centered, keeping the health of the Mehlville School District in mind, the second member will ensure open dissent, further strengthening the recommendations and findings made by the Proposition P Review Committee, and the third member will serve as the committee chairman and will be well versed in 'Robert's Rules of Order,' group management and mediation.

"I further move to direct district administration to solicit requests for proposals from certified public accountants for an independent audit of the Proposition P construction project and present a report outlining the review of financial management/processes, the review of current policies and internal control procedures related to construction and a summary of recommendations.

"The Proposition P Review Committee will report progress to the Board of Edu-cation at each board meeting. With the independent audit in hand and upon completion of their review, not to exceed three months, they will report their findings and recommendations to the Board of Educa-tion. The findings and recommendations are to be guided by a focus on positive con-firmation and procedural improvement, as well as providing constructive criticism.

"After a thorough review by the Board of Education, the board will act appropriately on the findings and recommendations presented by the review committee. In the end, a formal ceremony or presentation will be performed in a special meeting of the Board of Education, effectively dissolving the Proposition P Review Commit-tee and promoting the forward motion of the Mehlville School District,'' Frank said.

After Frank finished reading his motion, Diekemper said, "Mr. Frank, and for the future, you need to present before the meeting.''

Noting that Frank is a new board member, Diekemper pointed out that the board prefers to have material provided to it ahead of time, even from district administrators.

"... We don't want things just given to us at the meeting because we don't have time to properly consider the item,'' she said. "That's why we have the Friday run and then we have the Thursday meeting ...''

Leach seconded Frank's substitute mo-tion and Ricker said he would have copies made for the other board members.

Diekemper continued, "... For you to read it (the motion) and then for us to say what was that? I mean you have to disseminate the information before the meeting so that people have time to read it and think about it.

"And that's the purpose for having a board book so that any information, any research or anything that anyone has done is included in with the board book. Then they could have questions for whoever did that research for the meeting,'' she added.

Frank said, "I understand that, but substitutions are going to come up ...''

Heins said, "Actually, this wasn't on the agenda. It didn't have anything other than the auditor. Are we correct in even considering ...''

Diekemper interjected, "Well, he does have auditor in there, but I need to read it (the motion). I have questions about what it says, the rest of it.''

Ricker suggested board members take a recess, which they did.

After reconvening, Heins said Frank's motion was a "surprise motion'' and he called for the question, which would end discussion if Heins' motion was seconded and approved by a two-thirds vote.

Leach, however, said he wanted to discuss Frank's substitute motion.

Heins said, "... I'm calling for the question. Let's vote on it.''

But Heins' motion failed for lack of a second and discussion of the substitute motion continued.

Leach was complimentary of Frank's substitute motion, saying it was "written well,'' but he wanted more time to review it and made a motion to postpone consideration of it until the board's June 16 meeting.

Leach's motion was seconded by Correnti and unanimously approved by the board.

In a separate matter May 26, Charles announced during a board budget workshop that district teachers that week had rejected a proposed salary package.

"... The salary package that was included in this draft budget was rejected by the teachers' organization. I believe the vote was 149 (no) to 75 (yes) ..,'' Charles said.

The rejected salary package included adding $100 to the base with an overall average salary increase of roughly 2.44 percent. The package also included channel changes totaling $212,143.

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