Officials with the Buckeye Valley Local School District and the Excellence for Buckeye Valley committee say it’s unclear how the release of a critical report by the State Auditor Dave Yost will affect a bond issue on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.
The Auditor’s Office released a “public interest report” on Thursday, detailing its audit of work performed during the 2014 bond issue campaign on behalf of the school district by architectural firm OHM Advisors and its subcontractor, Aimpoint Research. The report states that the audit determined that public funds were inappropriately used to promote the 2014 bond issue, which voters rejected.
Superintendent Andrew Miller said he hopes that the Auditor’s Office report will have no effect on the opinions of district voters in regard to the current bond issue when they go to the polls on Nov. 3.
“I hope that people will weigh the issue that’s going to be before the voters on its own merits, because this has nothing to do with that report,” he said. “The information that was brought up that was of concern to the auditors was actually about the issue on the ballot last fall and not even about the process we went through this fall to get the issue here.”
The $31.3 million bond issue would provide funding for two new elementary school buildings in the district. One school would be located on the site of the current East Elementary in Ashley. The other would be located at Bellpoint in Concord Township.
Joe Veneman, spokesman for the Excellence for Buckeye Valley group, said he questions whether the release of the report by Yost’s office actually serves the public interest, but doesn’t want school district residents, and supporters of the bond issue in particular, to lose focus on the current campaign.
“We need to keep fighting toward getting this (bond issue) passed,” he said. “We need to finish what we in the community started. The only way to finish what we started is to vote ‘yes.’”
The Auditor’s Office reported that it opened its investigation of the 2014 bond issue campaign on Sept. 3, 2014, after receiving a complaint that public money was being paid to Aimpoint to promote the issue. Miller said the district received notification from the Auditor’s Office on Oct. 14, 2015, that a draft report would be sent to the district. The report arrived at the district office on Oct. 15 and was reviewed by district officials and legal counsel the following day.
District officials met with representatives from the Auditor’s Office on Oct. 19, at which time Miller requested more time to formulate a response to the draft report. The district then sent a memo detailing its concerns to the Auditor’s Office on Oct. 21, one day before the public interest report was released on Oct. 22.
The report will now be forwarded to the Auditor of State’s Central Region for consideration as part of the district’s Fiscal Year 2015 financial audit.
“If a final audit comes out and they determine that something improper was done, we’ll take our medicine and do what we need to do and follow the auditor’s guidelines,” Miller said. “But at this point, I feel like those things are inconclusive, so I personally don’t see the need for a public interest statement until things are conclusive.”
Part of the evaluation by the Auditor of State’s Central Region, in conjunction with legal counsel, will be to determine whether there is a finding for recovery. Buckeye Valley Treasurer Kelly Ziegler said via email, “The district does have liability insurance to cover such cost if the finding for recovery is established.”
Andrew Carter can be reached at 740-413-0902 and on Twitter @AndrewCarterDG.