Buckeye Elementary School District

The Arizona auditor general released the first of two reports on Buckeye Elementary School District, which focuses on school district operations and compliance with state requirements.

A recently released Arizona auditor general report shows the Buckeye Elementary School District had higher electricity and water costs than peer districts, and its lack of compliance put public monies and sensitive information at risk. 

The first of two reports, this performance audit focused on the district’s efficiency and effectiveness in four operational areas: administration, plant operations and maintenance, food service, and transportation, and its compliance with certain state requirements. 

The second and final report will be conducted later this year and will focus on executive administrative spending, particularly the superintendent’s salary and benefits package, due to concerns identified during the audit.

The district responded and agreed with the report’s findings and stated each of the 13 recommendations given by the auditor general would be implemented. 

Buckeye Elementary School District Superintendent Dr. Kristi Wilson issued a response on Dec. 16, to Lindsey Perry, the auditor general, including a five-page description as to how each recommendation would be followed and acted upon. 

“Buckeye Elementary School District has received and reviewed the performance audit report,” Wilson wrote. “As noted in our response to the specific findings and recommendations, we have already begun to implement many of the recommended corrective actions. We look forward to implementing the remaining recommended actions in the near future.”

Audit 1 key findings

The audit resulted in four key findings, all in regard to the district’s spending, fiscal loss and access to computerized data. 

First, the report stated the district’s plant operations and maintenance spending was 18% more per square foot than peers because it had disadvantageous solar contract terms, used more water and paid more for it per gallon. 

Specifically, the district spent $7.80 per square foot on plant operations and maintenance, whereas the peer districts averaged $6.60 per square foot. 

Second, the district had an estimated $400,000 loss in each of calendar years 2018 and 2019 for solar power, and it spent approximately $260,000 more on water and sewage than peer districts.

Third, the district employees made purchases without required prior approval and paid for purchases without having the required evidence of receiving them. The report completed a sample of 30 purchases during fiscal year 2019, and while no purchases in the sample indicate fraud, waste or abuse, six of the purchases did not follow district policy.  

Lastly, the district, according to the report, allowed too much access to its sensitive computerized data which, in combination with other IT deficiencies, increased risk of unauthorized access, errors, fraud and data loss.

The report found that terminated employees had access to the district’s network and accounting system. April and May 2020 reviews of the network and accounting system user accounts found that 38 network user accounts and one accounting system user account were linked to terminated employees who were one month to almost three and a half years post-termination.

There were no reported findings in the transportation and food service categories. The district spent less per meal on food service than its peer districts, on average, spending $2.54 per meal as opposed to its peers, which reported $2.90. 

As for transportation, the district spent less per mile and per rider on its student transportation program than its peer districts averaged. 

Key audit recommendations

Following the key findings, the report left the district with five key recommendations, 13 in total. First, to determine whether it can negotiate a lower per kilowatt hour rate for solar energy and either modify or terminate its solar contract.

Additionally, auditors suggested the district work with its solar power systems vendor to find a way to decrease its financial losses, as well as review its water usage and rates to determine how they can be reduced and implement usage and rate reduction methods.

To prevent employee purchases without required prior approval, the report suggests the district review purchasing policies and procedures and ensure they are followed. The auditor general suggested implementing additional procedures, including training or penalties for repeat offenders.

Lastly, the report recommends the district implement policies and procedures over its IT systems in line with industry standards to eliminate access to its sensitive computerized data. 

Following the first report, Perry noted that her office will follow up with the Buckeye Elementary School District in six months to assess its progress in implementing the recommendations.

To view the report, visit azauditor.gov