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Utah State Auditor releases audits of finances at four high schools, reveals significant inconsistencies

Published: Thursday, Nov. 8 2012 12:14 p.m. MST

Cottonwood/Bingham in prep football in South Jordan Friday, Oct. 26, 2012. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Cottonwood/Bingham in prep football in South Jordan Friday, Oct. 26, 2012. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Prompted by problems revealed last spring during an audit of the way Timpview High handled athletics and activities funding, the Utah State Auditor examined four additional high schools. What it found was that rules were inconsistent from district to district — inadequate in some cases, and at times ignored by coaches, booster clubs or administrators.

The audits of Alta (Canyons District), Davis (Davis District), Cottonwood (Granite District) and Fremont (Weber District) were released by the auditor's office Thursday morning. Significant changes in the way high schools handle fundraising and finances associated with athletics began after the Timpview audit as the Utah State Office of Education began offering training classes to high school administrators and coaches. The Utah State School Board is also researching — and discussed last Friday morning in a committee meeting — a new rule that would make rules and regulations regarding finances in schools uniform throughout the state.

Bingham plays Alta in a football game at the Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Bingham plays Alta in a football game at the Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

State auditors looked at policies and procedures for fundraising, donations, sponsorships and advertising at the four high schools. They also examined the way booster clubs interacted with their schools in those efforts and in handling money.

The audits revealed that while some districts dealt with these areas adequately, others did not. Investigators also found that different schools had varying degrees of internal controls, and that sometimes even if schools had sufficient rules and regulations, they were ignored.

"A significant amount of money is handled at the schools through fundraising, donations, advertising, sponsorship and booster club activities," said a statement from the State Auditor's Office. "We believe that similar problems would be found at other school districts and schools throughout the State and without best practice guidelines and training, the problems identified will continue to occur at the State’s school districts and schools. Therefore, all districts and schools would benefit from overall guidelines and training from the Utah State Office of Education."

Bingham High School vs Fremont High School in football played in Plain City, Friday, Nov. 4, 2011. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Bingham High School vs Fremont High School in football played in Plain City, Friday, Nov. 4, 2011. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

All the audits include a response from the districts, and in many cases, officials are already attempting to correct the problems found. For example, a number of the problems raised in the Cottonwood audit have been addressed by the district, which passed a new rule regarding fundraising and donations this summer.

The audits point out that a significant amount of money is raised by teams and groups affiliated with schools and that these problems are likely not isolated incidents. The Deseret News will provide in-depth analysis of each audit in separate stories later today, but is publishing complete audits this morning so patrons have an opportunity to see them in their complete form. The Timpview audit, which was conducted last winter, is also included.

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