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Sat, Feb. 22

Audit: Cottonwood-Oak Creek School spends more in classroom than 10 peer districts
Auditor General's Performance Audit "very clean'

COTTONWOOD - The State of Arizona Office of the Auditor General released its Performance Audit Nov. 1 for Cottonwood-Oak Creek Elementary School District. About seven districts statewide are selected at random each year for the in-depth audit.

"In our lead auditor's words, "this is a very clean audit,'" said David Snyder, district director of business services.

Superintendent Barbara U'Ren said the auditors pick 10 peer districts for comparison with C-OC. "They look at operational efficiencies."

The appendix of the report, which defines objectives, scope and methodology of the audit, states that C-OC was compared with 10 peer districts selected for similarities in size, type and location. Those other districts serve between 600 and 7,999 students in both town and rural areas.

During the year of the audit, C-OC District covered 428 square miles and served 2,308 students in kindergarten through eighth grade at five campuses.

The audit focused on four operational areas: administration, plant operation and maintenance, food service and student transportation. The audit covered fiscal year 2008-2009.

Snyder said he and U'Ren were both "pleased with the audit, as they reinforce management's goals of operational efficiency and fiscal accountability."

The Performance Audit summary states that C-OC operates efficiently overall with similar or lower costs compared with peer districts.

The audit states: "In fiscal year 2009, the District spent about the same per pupil as peer districts, but spent slightly more in the classroom. Costs for administration, food service, and transportation were lower than the peer districts' averages, and plant operation costs were similar."

Cost for administration at C-OC was $823 per student, below the peer group average of $882 per student. Food service costs per student were $458 at C-OC, compared with the peer group average of $518. Transportation costs were $272 per student, considerably below the peer group of average of $353.

Plant operations for C-OC per student were $894 compared with $863 for the peer group average. Snyder explained that having five campuses makes C-OC's plant operations costs higher than districts with fewer schools.

Student achievement also was found to be on par with state and peer districts' averages. In math, 68 percent of C-OC's students met or exceeded state standards, 71 percent in reading and 80 percent in writing.

One of the C-OC schools did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for No Child Left Behind, but that also was found to be similar to peer districts.

The audit found no improper transactions, but the report did recommend tighter controls over portions of the accounting system to ensure that transactions are authorized and accurate, and that duties are segregated between employees.

According to Snyder, those recommendations have either already been put in place or are now being put in place.

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