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Audit finds weaknesses in ICCSD business practices

By B. Adam Burke
North Liberty Leader
IOWA CITY– Last year, Iowa City Community School (ICCSD) Superintendent Stephen Murley ordered an external audit to track down inefficiencies in the school system’s administrative departments.
Payroll, purchasing, accounts payable, budget, technology, human resources, food services and physical plant departments were scrutinized by a Wilmette, Ill. Company, Synesi Associates, who did an operations review for the district.
Their report calls for the district to install Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software.
On the accounting departments, the report stated, “Overall, Synesi found a hard-working, dedicated staff in every area of accounting, but we also found a dire need for an Enterprise Resource Planning tool to move the accounting functions and performances into the 21st century.”
The district has already made initial contacts with ERP providers.
An ERP system integrates communication between departments to efficiently handle the daily and long-term business of the district. The software can take 18 months to fully implement and installation will involve accounting, human resources and other staff.
The Synesi report found that payroll, purchasing and accounts payable, which report to accounting in ICCSD, have no documented standard procedures.
In 2011, the district found a $2-million budget surplus error after considering elimination of 22 teacher positions. The problem was a double entry of state and federal money for teachers’ salaries.
In another misstep, the district was one day late in paying payroll taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The initial $25,000 fine was recently reversed by the IRS.
On Dec. 21, 2011, the teachers’ union, Iowa City Education Association, filed a complaint against the district with the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board. A similar complaint was filed the previous year. The union said it has not received personnel documents it needs to begin collective bargaining discussion this month.
“Few formal Bids/RFP (request for proposal) are let in ICCSD. This has grave implications with keeping public trust,” the report stated. The Synesi report suggested crafting formal bids for annual recurring services to let vendors compete for more district business.
Some of the school’s systems were called archaic by the report; the technology department was deemed in need of an overhaul. The report noted that the district’s technology plan expired in 2007.
Teacher and principal email storage was too small, according to Synesi’s review. The lack of storage resulted in deleted emails, which could become a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) compliance issue for the schools.
The Synesi report also recommended hiring a budget director, more staff for the technology department and a food service driver.
Kate Moreland, ICCSD Community Relations Coordinator, said of the Synesi audit, “The administrative team will work to implement as many of the proposed solutions as possible as quickly as possible.”
The full report, with comments from parents, staff, and community members is available at the district’s website: www.iowacityschools.org.