The show choir booster club at Volcano Vista High has been dissolved after an audit revealed the group had a deficit of at least $15,000, including unpaid bills the school will cover.
The audit was conducted “as a result of concerns regarding fundraising connected to the activities by the students and parents … ” according to a letter signed by Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Winston Brooks and chief operations officer Brad Winter that was sent home to show choir parents on June 17.
It’s unclear how the audit arrived at the $15,000 deficit, but the letter states that the group has unpaid bills and has not accounted for some of the money raised by students.
As a result of the audit findings, all future money raised by show choir members will be processed through the school’s general activity fund, according to the letter.
“Preliminary information indicated there is a deficit in excess of $15,000 in the booster club financial situation,” the letter states. ” … As a result, the student accounts have been zeroed.”
“This is what makes me angry,” said Kathy Korte, an APS board member who served as interim club president starting in January. “It’s going to be the school, essentially the taxpayers, who pay this money.”
The letter does not clarify how long the club was operating with a deficit or how the money earned from various fundraisers was spent.
APS spokesman Rigo Chavez said the full audit may answer those questions, but it will not be available for public review until it’s approved by the district’s audit committee on July 30.
Booster club secretary Cornelia Villareal said she noticed problems from the start of the 2012-13 school year, but members were given limited information.
“We never were given the complete financial picture,” she said. “We never received bank statements, and I know that we never received things we paid for like shoes.”
All booster club activities must be approved by the school, but such clubs are “sole and separate entities and are responsible for their own compliance with applicable Federal and State regulations,” according to board policy. They must submit “a detailed financial report of expenditures and revenue to the principal and APS Finance Department” by July 31 for the upcoming school year. Korte said that was not done by the show choir club.
The letter discusses problems with management of the booster club’s finances. The club, which also represented the regular school choir, may have used money raised during the 2012-13 school year to pay for expenses accrued the previous year. In addition, the choir director, who is an APS employee, and the club treasurer failed to prepare a budget for the entire school year, the letter said.
The lack of a budget, according to the letter, meant the club did not have enough money for its trip to Chicago for a competition in March. “The trip was approximately $500 more per student than was communicated to the parents,” according to the letter. The school will absorb the extra expense for each student. Thirty students attended.
APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta said Monday night she could not immediately answer who decided the school would cover the unpaid expenses or how that decision was made. Although the booster club is a separate entity, Armenta said the show choir is a school-sponsored group.
Korte said she was the one who asked for the audit after she volunteered to become interim president. APS policy does not prohibit board members from serving on booster clubs. Korte said she does not think there is a conflict of interest, but she did inform district officials and said she would not handle money.
Korte’s daughter is part of the choir and she said, as a parent, she became frustrated when the booster club could not tell her how much money her daughter had raised. When the club president resigned, Korte said she agreed to temporarily step in and help.
“At our first meeting, I looked at the financial report and it was not good,” she said. “It didn’t tell us anything we needed to know.”
Korte said questions about club finances went unanswered. She said she asked for the audit because she was worried the group would not have enough money for the trip to Chicago. Regardless, “it was too late to cancel the trip and recoup expenses,” according to the letter.
Any future travel proposed by the group will have to be submitted for approval to the school with a detailed plan and a budget. All money needed for the trip must be raised in advance.