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December 15, 2017     Cape Gazette
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December 15, 2017

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Audit: Cape a top spender on meals, in-state lodging Report shows lack of controls for out-of-classroom spending By Melissa Steele Cape Henlopen prides itself as one of the best academic and sports schools in the state. A recent audit shows Cape is also one of the highest spending for noneducational expenses. State Auditor Thomas Wagner said the audit began as analysis of expenditures across Delaware's 19 school districts, looking into ways the state can save money. “We wanted to see how we're spending money outside the classroom,” Wagner said. But during the process, he said, auditors found questionable spending on meals and in-state lodging. For fiscal year 2016, Cape Hen- lopen School District spent more than $27,000 on meals, second to Lake Forest which spent more than $28,000. “The combined purchases for these two school districts accounted for over half of the amount spent by school districts statewide,” the audit states. Overall, districts charged more than $98,000 for meals using a state purchasing card, known as a Pcard. Wagner said spending on the Pcard is not the issue. It's a spending mechanism that the state wants districts to use be- cause it's efficient and the state gets points, similar to a credit card. “We actually encourage the use of it,” he said. School districts can also pay for nonclassroom services by using vouchers or personal reimbursement. Analyzing Pcard expenses only, Wagner said, auditors real- ized some school districts spend a lot of money on meals and in- state lodging. Sussex Tech was ranked fifth for in-state meal purchases with about $6,300 spent. The audit details a May 2015 retirement and recognition re- ception Cape Henlopen held at the Atlantic Sands Hotel & Conference Center to honor 35 retirees and eight teachers of the year. The cost was about $11,000 for 207 guests. In a letter to the auditor, Cape's Director of Busi- ness Operations Oliver Gumbs pointed out that attendees paid $2,884 for the event, also noting the district would continue to evaluate policies to ensure ac- countability and transparency. Superintendent Robert Fulton could not be reached for com- ment. Wagner said auditors could find no law that limits how much a school district can spend for employee recognition activi- ties. However, he said, the state limits all other state-sanctioned recognition programs to $10 per person each year. “Since school districts are exempt from some state-pro- curement rules … they have increased autonomy over the use of their funds, particularly the lo- cal portion,” the audit states. “As a result, funds that could be spent in the classroom are being used for other purposes.” Wagner said schools should spend public money to educate children, not pay for meals. In-state lodging for a small state The audit also examined in- state lodging purchases made by school districts. Again, Cape Henlopen was the second high- est-spending district with more than $3,000 spent for in-state lodging in 2016. The audit notes that Cape spent about $1,300 listed under in-state lodging to partially pay for the retirement event at the Atlantic Sands. Red Clay Consolidated School District spent the most on in- state lodging the Pcard, charging about $5,300. Wagner questioned why over- night lodging is needed in a state as small as Delaware. “We're saying that there is a lot of expenditures on in-state hotels for a state that is smaller than a ton of counties in this country,” he said. Coding inconsistencies During the review, auditors uncovered inconsistencies in the way districts code expenses. “Because there's no unified cod- ing, everyone codes differently,” Wagner said. 2000 Coastal Hwy • Dewey Beach, DE • 302-227-4600 Happy Holidays Holidays are made at the Thursday-Sundays at 8:30am for Breakfast. Locals! Come try our famous breakfast menu soon! You can PARK for free throughout Dewey at anytime! 24 REHOBOTH AVE. Downtown · Rehoboth Beach 302.226.1044 THURSDAY $6 PIE NIGHT Shepherd’s Pie / Fisherman’s Pie • After 4 p.m. FRIDAY $6 LUNCH Battered Fish Sandwich with slaw• Available ‘til 4 p.m. SUNDAY $6 CHICKEN & CHIPS 18388 COASTAL HWY. Lewes 302.644.2250 Authentic British Fish & Chip Shops TRULY BRITISH THROUGH & THROUGH OPEN FOR LUNCH & DINNER 7 DAYS 2010 16 FRIDAY, DECEMBER 15 - MONDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2017 NEWS Cape Gazette FILE PHOTO CAPE HENLOPEN SCHOOL District is one of the highest spenders for nonclassroom-related expenses, ac- cording to a recent state audit. Continued on page 19