State Audit: No Theft

But Seattle schools spent millions without authority.

A LONG-AWAITED state review of the Seattle School District's overspending found no evidence of stolen funds in the past two years, bringing a little good news to a district that is $35 million in the hole. The review also gives weight to the district's contention that $9.3 million in untracked funds were improperly recorded though properly spent (see "Legendary Ledger," May 7). But in a report released Friday, May 30, State Auditor Brian Sonntag says the district, as in the previous five years, violated all sorts of standard accounting practices. Among his findings, the district:

*Estimated federal revenue far in excess of the amount actually received, allowing the district to, questionably, levy nearly $9 million in additional property taxes over the past three years.

*Used inconsistent accounting practices and recorded transactions in the wrong period, shifting millions back and forth to make the books appear balanced, and had insufficient internal controls to track enrollment of special-education students.

*Failed to monitor its operations in compliance with state law, exceeded its authority to spend approximately $9.8 million, and lacked oversight of its payroll, increasing the possibility of loss or misappropriation.

*Misused student funds by spending $46,267 to refinish the Nathan Hale High School gymnasium floor and exceeded its student-body appropriation authority by $170,000, in violation of state law.

The district agrees with the state's findings and is making corrections, it says.

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