In a move to increase transparency, Sumter School District's acting Superintendent Debbie Hamm has agreed to include new rules for administrators in the district's purchasing policy.
District Board of Trustee and Finance Committee Chairman Johnny …
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In other matters at the board meeting, at-large board member and Facilities Committee Chairman William Byrd informed the full board that he and district staff have reviewed proposals for conducting a population demographics study for the district. He said the recommendation of one proposer to do the study should be forthcoming.
Byrd also said his committee has solicited proposals for a district facilities study and those proposals will be reviewed soon, with a recommendation also forthcoming to the full board.
The two studies could affect the future of smaller, low-enrollment schools in the district. Last year, the financial consultant who guided the district through a financial crisis recommended closing two schools at the end of last school year (F.J. DeLaine Elementary and Mayewood Middle) and two more at the end of this school year to build the district's fund balance.
In a 4-2 split vote on April 24, the board voted down the motion to close the two schools.
District Board of Trustee and Finance Committee Chairman Johnny Hilton announced the agreement and action Monday night at the board's regular meeting at the district office, 1345 Wilson Hall Road. Because the new administrative rules are not necessarily policy changes, Hilton said the board didn't have to officially vote on them Monday.
Hilton and the board's Finance Committee agreed earlier to the list of changes or recommendations in administrative rules regarding purchases. The new rules for administrators come after the district had various findings in its first procurement audit in December 2016.
Highlights of the new administrative rules are that the district will have a procurement audit every fiscal year - instead of the state requirement of every three years - and that the trustees will receive an email notification when the need for an emergency procurement arises. Previously, board members were not formally notified.
"It's going to make procurement more transparent to the board, provide more information to the board, plus we will have an annual audit as opposed to an audit every three years," Hilton said.
Other recommendations that will be included are that emergency procurements should only be made in the case of an actual emergency and that there will be improved training and communication for district staff for handling small purchases - considered less than $2,500 - with purchase orders.
After Sumter's two school districts consolidated into one district in July 2011, it received a two-year grace period from the state Department of Education before a procurement audit was necessary. Given the state
requirement to have the audit of purchase processes at least once every three years, the December 2016 audit represented the three-year period from 2013-16.
In that three-year audit, the district's auditor cited the district for one sole-source procurement that lacked adequate documentation, inappropriate use of "emergency procurement" procedures for purchases that should not have been considered emergencies and not consistently using purchase orders for small purchases, among other findings.
After the procurement audit, then-Superintendent Frank Baker and others said corrective actions had been put in place. Some changes regarding purchase orders were put in place in 2016 - even before the audit took place, Baker said.
Hilton had said earlier the purpose of the new procurement recommendations were to prevent any misinterpretation in the future and to keep the Finance Committee and the board in step with the superintendent and chief financial officer.
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