FORT VALLEY — Peach County school officials are reviewing expenditures that may point to $260,000 in improperly spent funds, Superintendent Susan Clark said Tuesday.
Peach County schools, as well as other districts in the state, must submit a report by Dec. 15 to the Georgia Department of Audits detailing how 2005 special purpose local option sales tax funds were spent.
The 2005 SPLOST was expected to generate about $22 million, according to Telegraph archives.
While the full report was not available at a Peach County school board meeting Tuesday, a special called session will be held at 7 p.m. Monday to share the information with the public.
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“We want to make sure we’re honest,” Clark said. “Right, wrong, indifferent, we want to tell the truth about it.”
The money in question was likely spent on school board efforts in researching other potential sites for the construction of the long-delayed Hunt and Kay Road elementary schools, though the district had already purchased property for the projects, Clark said.
Though the board approved the construction of Hunt and Kay Road elementary schools at the end of 2006, groundbreaking on the schools did not take place until 2008 because of board disagreement over the location of the schools.
Clark noted that she, finance director Susan Perry and school board attorney Buddy Welch did not hold their current positions when the location of the schools was disputed among the board. Both Clark and Perry came to Peach County in 2008.
Within that time frame, the cost of construction materials skyrocketed, Clark said. As a result, the board approved a $2 million transfer from the district’s general fund to its capital outlay fund to cover the difference.
Modifications also had to be made to the original building plans to ensure the construction of the schools, which cost $11.5 million each, would be built identically and within budget.
Last year, Peach County voters approved a continuation of the 2005 SPLOST, which expired this year.
Peach County schools are expected to begin receiving revenue from the new SPLOST in February, according to Perry.
The district will give quarterly reports on incoming revenue and what that money will be spent on, Clark said. Of the $21 million the SPLOST is expected to generate, more than $13 million of that will be used to pay off bonded debt. Clark emphasized that paying off the bonds would be a priority over other improvement projects approved in the most recent SPLOST.
Board member Virginia Dixon asked Clark if the board would face a penalty for any misspent funds.
Ordinarily, school districts would be expected to pay back the amount that was misspent. Because the cost of the schools increased in the time the district first set out to complete the project, “we’ve more than paid back what we didn’t use correctly,” Clark said.
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.