Bibb BOE members discuss audit cost

At a meeting Thursday, some Bibb County school board members took issue with the cost of a forensic audit of their e-mails.

Last month, auditing firm McGladrey shared the results of a look at board members e-mails and possible violations of local and state policies. The initial audit report focused on board members Sue Sipe and Gary Bechtel. McGladrey is expected to share more results with the board in September.

Sipe said Superintendent Romain Dallemand e-mailed board members in December that the audit would cost $90,000, but costs have ballooned to about $350,000 so far, according to documents she received.

“How did a $90,000 audit turn into an audit that, by the time we finish the work in September, could easily cost half a million dollars?” Sipe asked.

Board President Tommy Barnes said the board voted to extend the audit’s scope following an initial March 15 presentation by McGladrey.

“We didn’t set a limit on it, and we had a unanimous vote to do it,” Barnes said.

Bechtel said the board never discussed the audit in multiple phases nor their costs, but Dallemand said the board chose to move forward with a second phase of the audit in March.

Bechtel also said while the system paid more than $130,000 for the first phase of the audit, McGladrey estimated the first phase of the audit would cost between $90,000 and $110,000.

Board member Tom Hudson said those figures were merely estimates and not exact costs.

“Especially with the moving expenses,” said Bechtel, alluding to an audit finding in March that Bechtel interfered with the process of finding a vendor to move Dallemand and his family to Macon when he was hired. Bechtel, who was school board president at the time, has maintained that he was acting within the parameters of Dallemand’s contract.

Bibb schools to phase out employee dental insurance

The Bibb County school system will stop paying for employee dental insurance over the next few years.

Following a 4-2 vote by the school board Thursday, the district will contribute $10 a month toward employees’ dental premiums beginning in 2013. That amount will drop to $5 per month in 2014, and the system won’t make any contributions toward premiums the following year.

Board members Sue Sipe and Gary Bechtel voted against the measure, while Ella Carter and Wanda West were not present.

Currently, the system paid all of the costs for employee coverage, and employees contributed a small amount to cover dependents, according to board meeting documents.

Bibb schools will continue to offer coverage to employees through Delta Dental.

The system is phasing out dental insurance costs as it looks to tighten its belt, Chief Financial Officer Ron Collier said. He also noted that Houston County and some other school districts don’t offer dental insurance.

“I think it’s just a function of the times and the cost of health care,” Collier said.

Sipe said she would not approve the measure given the costs of an audit of employees’ e-mails.

“I do not think it’s fair to take it away from our employees when we could still be providing the dental insurance for them,” she said.

FVSU receives almost $600,000 in grants

Fort Valley State University will receive nearly $600,000 in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help “socially disadvantaged farmers,” according a news release from the office of U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga.

The university is getting a continuing $300,000 grant to “help minority farmers change their educational and technological approach to USDA programs,” according to the news release.

FVSU will get another $275,163 to the Landowners Initiative for Forestry Education, a program run by the university’s Cooperative Extension Program.

“The funding for this project is so critical as it comes at a time when numerous historically underrepresented landowners in the region are keeping their properties idle for lack of financial support for legal and technical guidance,” Govind Kannan, FVSU’s dean of the College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology, said in the release.

Compiled by Telegraph staff writer Andrea Castillo.