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Published May 26 2010

Two Fargo School Board members question software expenses

Two Fargo School Board members are questioning if administrators violated policies when spending about $1 million in software-related expenses.

In June 2008, the board approved spending about $1.1 million to convert software districtwide.

Now, near the end of that two-year process, school officials have spent about $2 million in software-related expenses.

“Who authorized the additional $852,925?” board member John Strand asked administrators. “I just don’t know what happened.”

Dan Huffman, the assistant superintendent of business services, said policies were followed and the additional money spent was separate from what the school board initially authorized in June 2008.

Plus, “everything was budgeted that we spent,” he said of additional expenses being in the district’s budget, which the board approved each year.

Strand countered that expenses were related and weren’t properly communicated to the board, but rather just a line item in the overall budget.

“I really don’t believe the board knew … we were going that far down that path on this project financially,” he said.

Strand requested Tuesday that an independent audit be conducted, but the board decided their planning committee will review the district’s software purchases and policies at a June 10 meeting.

District policy prohibits administrators from spending more than $25,000 in unbudgeted costs.

Strand said he hopes he gets answers at the June meeting to questions such as how much was spent, who authorized it and if the policy was followed.

“It’s the people’s money; they need our trust,” he said. “There’s a sense we’ve done business like this for a while.”

Board member Paul Meyers echoed Strand’s concerns, adding that “rules were bent.”

“Did someone do something wrong? Not that we know of,” Meyers said. “Do I think there needs to be more careful supervision? Yes.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515