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State auditor cites school district for not holding public meeting

SNOQUALMIE - A Washington State Auditor's report of the Snoqualmie Valley School District issued May 27 found that the district did not hold the proper public meeting for gathering input on the spending of Initiative 728 funds.

An audit of the period of Sept. 1, 2002, through Aug. 31, 2004, uncovered the findings.

According to the report, the district was not aware that a public meeting was required and did not adequately monitor for compliance with the I-728 requirements.

State law requires school districts hold public hearings annually on or before May 1 to gather public input on the proposed use of student achievement funds provided by Initiative 728.

The district spent $674,143 and $717,926 of these funds during the 2002 and 2003 fiscal years, respectively, but did not hold the required annual public hearing, though it did ask the public to provide comment to the district via questionnaires, according to the auditor's office.

Ron Ellis, business director for the district, said the state has a narrow definition of what constitutes a public meeting.

The district did information gathering activities through Web sites, parent meetings and other feedback-receiving forums, but did not meet the definition of what qualified as a public hearing, according to the state.

"We said OK, in addition to all the other means for gathering public input, we will work that into the plan and henceforth will meet your requirements," Ellis said.

From now on the district will hold the proper public meeting each year to comply with state law and there will be a formal public hearing regarding I-728 this Thursday, June 16, at the regular board of directors meeting at 7:30 p.m. at the district office, 8001 Silva Ave. S.E., Snoqualmie.

Initiative 728 is categorized as a student achievements fund, which has a broad umbrella of uses.

The funds are from the state, but were obtained through a volunteer initiative to add additional funds to the money the school district receives.

Assistant superintendent Don McConkey said the money is used for a variety of different things, which are pretty well dictated by the state. In the past, Snoqualmie schools have used the money to reduce class size, provide additional support for extended learning, tutor kids who may need more preparation for the WASL and fund additional training for teachers.

"We also heard that a number of other school districts across the state that gave community and staff different types of opportunities [to offer feedback] also had a finding [by the auditor's office] because they didn't have a formal public hearing," McConkey said.

The past five audits of the district have reported no findings.

Staff writer Melissa Kruse can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at melissa.kruse@valleyrecord.com.

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