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Audit report reveals oversight issues at Waverly Central School District

WAVERLY — A three month audit conducted by the New York State Comptroller’s Office did not bring back good news to the Waverly Central School District when it was brought before the school board Thursday.

Specifically, the audit reported several key findings related to the oversight of some of the district’s finances.

“In our audit sample, 30 claims, or 11 percent, totaling $73,865 were not approved by the department head,” the report stated. “And 15 claims, or 5 percent, totaling $69,670 were not approved by the claims auditor.”

Additionally, the report said the senior account clerk’s leave accrual records contained errors, and her sick leave balances exceeded the contractual maximum by 111 days.

As such, the report recommended the following actions:

• That the district implement internal controls to verify that checks, wire transfers and payroll disbursements are accurate and appropriate.

• The the district ensure that the claims auditor receives all claims for payment and requires adequate support for each claim.

Superintendent Eric Knolles acknowledged the findings in the audit report, and said a corrective action plan is already being developed.

Additionally, Knolles and board President Parvin Mensch defended the business staff of the district, noting that a previous meeting between the staff and auditors was, at times, contentious.

“Our folks didn’t deserve the verbiage that they got,” Mensch said. “We were as politically correct as we could be, but the auditors were not our friends this time around. But our staff does a fantastic job.”

“It was certainly an interesting meeting,” Knolles said. “But the key is it’s not about the money. There was nothing wrong with that part. It’s just a procedural thing in the way we check things.”

Knolles added that the issue rested in the area of oversight, and not in the handling of funds.

“We have a small business department, but the auditors just want us to do another level of oversight,” he said. “Our staff has been working together for over 20 years, but they want us to do things a different way and add layers of oversight for when we bring in new employees.”

editor / Pat McDonald/Morning Times  

The Athens Area High School Homecoming Parade was held on Thursday night as the Wildcats get set to take on Canton in a “Gold Out Game” on Friday. All proceeds from the game, along with t-shirt sales and a penny war between the school districts, will go to the families of Seeley Carlin and Ariah Cooke who are both battling cancer. Seeley and Ariah were named the Honorary Homecoming King and Queen — and can be seen here riding in Thursday’s parade. For more photos of the parade, check out page A8.

Third annual William Ransom Community Service Award given to Fred Daniels

WAVERLY — The Waverly Rotary Club on Thursday awarded the third annual William “Bill” Ransom III Community Service Award to Fred Daniels for his outstanding legacy of community service.

Daniels has been an active member of the Waverly Lions Club since 1975, and has participated in the annual Tinsel and Lights event as Santa for over 25 years.

He has also been a mentor to not only fellow Lions, but those throughout their district.

“He has acted as a leader that strives for maximum benefit in any project that he has been involved with over many years in the Waverly area,” said Dr. Robert Reed, a past Lions district governor, who nominated Daniels.

Daniels donated his $500 Rotary check, along with a $600 check from the Lions, to the Waverly Glen Park improvement project.

“We used to go there for picnics, and I believe that the Waverly Glen Park, through its beauty and activities, builds community,” Daniels said. “It’s going to be back, bigger and better than ever. The money is going to be well spent, with what Bill would’ve wanted with the community effort.”

The donation will go toward Waverly’s required $150,000 local contribution toward the $490,000 grant for park renovations.

“I thank all my friends at the Lions, all my friends from Waverly and Tioga County,” Daniels said. “If you look around, there’s an awful lot of Waverly Lions here.”

William “Bill” H. Ransom III was a treasured member of the village community prior to his passing in 2014.

He was committed to the community, leaving a lasting impact on everyone he knew before losing his battle with cancer.

Rotary was one of the many organizations Ransom was active in, and his Waverly Rotary colleagues continue to honor his commitment to the local community with the annual award.

Each year, the award is given to individuals who share Bill Ransom’s vision and commitment. An eligible individual is one who has supported the community through service for over 10 years, and demonstrates leadership and vision, mentorship, and has produced positive change.

Federal grant helps local substance abuse education effort

OWEGO — On Thursday, Tioga County Legislators heard an update on the county’s substance abuse prevention initiative.

Christina Olevano, director of Allies in Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) and CASA Trinity, explained the process underway and outlook heading into the second year of a nationwide federal Drug Free Communities grant.

It takes a “local problems need local solutions” approach, engaging people in as many community sectors as possible, to employ strategies to meet local prevention needs.

Under the terms of the five-year grant, an annual report is compiled, and $124,000 is awarded each year toward the reduction of youth substance abuse.

Olevano noted that there’s an additional grant that would cover the program for years six through 10. In total, that would represent $1.3 million in funding toward substance abuse prevention and education.

So far, the program has helped host several awareness events, distributed medication lock boxes and educational materials, as well as established a viable and growing social media presence.

“One of the things we thought was important was hosting community awareness events, concentrating on what resources are available to those who are dealing with substance abuse issues in their families,” she explained, adding that the group has partnered with all six school districts within Tioga County.

Recently, schools have reached out for assistance with vaping and e-cigarette education.

“In substance abuse prevention and coalition work, I think from the outside if you’re not in this work, it can seem like we’re standing in a field blindfolded, throwing darts at things and seeing what sticks, but that’s actually not the case,” said Olevano. “Prevention is a science, and these are research-based strategies that coalitions have to use in order to make an impact.”

Among the strategies are help in changing policies and consequences, providing information and support, and enhancing skills.

These efforts are what have shown actual reduction in not only substance abuse, but violence and other risky behaviors as well, she said.

Olevano said coalitions that utilize a comprehensive and complimentary set of evidence-based strategies have shown a 44 percent lower prevalence of use as compared to communities that do not effectively address substance misuse.

Additionally, the program also illustrates a 19 percent lower prevalence of use in communities as compared to before having received funding to specifically address this issue.

In a study of 50 coalitions in Tennessee, the return on investment for prevention dollars spent was 400 percent, representing a savings in taxpayer burden that averaged $13.33 per $1 spent.

Locally, Tioga County has seen an annual increase in DWI arrests from 131 to 141.

In 2017, 134 calls for service were directly related to substance abuse, though law enforcement acknowledges many other calls have some component of substance abuse related, Olevano said.

Additionally, she noted that 21 percent of calls to Child Protective Services contained allegations involving drug use. That figure is up from 18 percent in 2017, and from 14 percent in 2016.

ASAP will be hosting a community change forum on Oct. 15 at Calvary’s Love Church in Johnson City.

“The purpose of that forum is to try to draw in people from the community, agencies, schools and stakeholders to help us formulate what our plan is going to look like in years three through five,” Olevano explained. “So far, (the initiative) has really been formed by the data, but we really want to open it up the community and get a bigger picture of what people want to see the coalition doing.”

For more information, visit the Tioga County ASAP Facebook page, or TiogaASAP.org.