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is still greater need for an active interest and earnest and hearty co-operation on the part of the people with the officials whom they elect to represent them and do business for them. All of these results it is believed will come from the careful management and continuation of school officers' meetings in the several counties of the State.
Under the provisions of section 1197 of the Compiled Laws it is provided that all moneys coming into the hands of any officer of the State, county, township, or school district, pursuant to any provision of law shall be denominated public moneys.
The sources of revenue for the public schools of Michigan are as follows: Primary school interest fund, one mill tax, fine moneys, dog tax, tuition, and voted taxes.
The officers elected by the people to receive and disburse public money are required to keep such money separate and apart from their own and not mix it with their own money nor with that of any other person, firm or corporation. Further, such officers shall not under any circumstances use or allow this money to be used for any purpose Care of other than that in accordance with the provisions of law. They money. cannot use it for their own purposes nor loan it to other persons, and such officers with the sureties on their bonds are absolutely liable to the school district or other public corporation which they represent for the safekeeping of all moneys coming into their hands.
The treasurer of each school district is required to keep the school money separate and distinct from his own money, and under the statute it is separated into five different funds as follows: (a) building sites and permanent repairs; (b) teachers' wages; (c) library; (d) general; (e) incidental. These funds are derived as follows: (a) Building sites and permanent repairs from taxes voted by the people.
(b) Teachers' wages from primary school interest fund, one mill tax, and voted tax.
(c) Library, from fine moneys derived from the penal fines levied in the county and voted taxes.
(d) General fund, from taxes, interest on deposited funds, dog tax, delinquent tax and tuition.
(e) Incidental fund, from voted taxes, together with any surplus mill tax properly transferred to this fund.
USES OF SCHOOL FUNDS.
1. All moneys voted by the people as taxes for the purpose of buildings, sites and permanent repairs must be used for these purposes, and if any surplus remains after such matters have been completed, this surplus may be continued in that fund for future contingencies, or may by a two-thirds vote of the taxpayers of the district be transferred to other funds.
2. The primary school interest fund can be used for teachers' wages only and cannot be borrowed and used for other purposes, nor can it be transferred to any other account. The one mill
tax must be used for teachers' wages only until the district has had eight months of school, when any surplus remaining may by a majority vote of the taxpayers present and voting be transferred to the general or incidental fund.
3. All fines assessed in any courts of a county for violations Library
of the penal laws must be paid over from the court assessing the fine to the county treasurer, who will place these funds under the
library account. The county treasurer annually, on the first of June is required to distribute this money under the direction of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to the several school districts of the county which maintain libraries and this money can be used by boards of education for library purposes only. No school board has authority to transfer library funds to other accounts or use them for other purposes. Any moneys voted by the people as a tax for library purposes must also be added to this library fund and used for library purposes.
4. The following is a statement of the taxes voted by the people, not the board, which constitute the general fund, and the items which may be purchased out of this fund:
Under clause 7 of section 4665 (43) the people should vote stated sums for additional appendages, apparatus, library, debts, services of officers, transportation of pupils and indemnity bonds; the total of these sums together with the interest, dog tax, and delinquent tax and tuition, if any, will constitute the general fund, which may be used as follows: To pay for outhouses, fences, care and grading of grounds, taking of census, books for indigent children, furniture, apparatus not mentioned in section 4686 (64), transportation of pupils, officer's salaries in districts having more than fifty pupils, for bonds of the treasurer and for insurance. In paying for any of these items the director may draw an order on the general fund and the treasurer will charge the amount to this fund. It should be noted that the people at the annual meeting, if they need money for any of these items, should vote specific taxes for each of the items mentioned in said clause 7, for if they fail to vote money for each of these purposes then there would be no money in the general fund with which to pay for such omitted item.
5. Under section 4674 (52) the board is authorizd to vote a tax for incidentals and this is construed to include all such items or articles as are essential to the maintenance of the school. A school may be conducted without a library, transportation of pupils, etc., but the essential items mentioned in Sec. 4672 (50), 4686 (64), 4679 (57), 4778 (156) are to be purchased by the director and paid for out of the incidental fund and are as follows: Record books and blanks for officers, janitor's services, certain maps, glo, dictionary, library case, reading chart, looking glass, comb, towel, w er pail, cup, ash pail, poker, shovel, broom, dust pan, duster, wash basin, soap, chalk, erasers, as noted in said section 4686, also minor repairs such as window glass, door knobs, locks, etc., and free text books. The board is also required to provide fuel and a water supply (see sec. 4679), and as this may mean the renting of a well or the putting down of a well, the pay for such water supply would come from the incidental fund. The director in drawing orders for any of these items will draw such orders ou ... incidental fund and the treasurer will pay for them out of that fund.
The investigation of the accounts and records of chool districts has brought to light the fact that in the great majority of school districts, especially of rural school districts, the treasurer does not keep separate accounts of these funds, and there is great irregularity on the part of school officers in the drawing and cashing of school orders. School funds are mixed all together and no separate account kept of each, consequently School school boards are unable to make out accurate reports of re- accounts. ceipts and expenditures at the end of each year as the law requires. The purpose of the statute in defining school funds and their uses was clearly the protection of the people who pay the taxes, and all public officials who handle public money should be held to strict account for every penny coming into their hands and every penny they pay out. Such looseness and carelessness on the part of school officers as has been discovered is absolutely inexcusable, and results in many instances not only in the loss of public money but in the misappropriation and misuse of funds to the detriment of school interests. It is to be hoped that in the future school district officers will be more particular in their care and use of school funds, and that the plain provisions of the statute shall be strictly observed in every case.
Circulars have been printed by this department at various times and distributed to the school officers of the State calling their attention to their duties in this connection and every officer is supposed to have a copy of the statute which he can consult at all times and determine his powers, duties, privileges and limitations.
REPORT ON AUDITING DISTRICT ACCOUNTS.
The law authorizing the superintendent of Public Instruction to audit accounts of school districts is of recent date. It has, however, already justified itself. Before it had become operative there were requests for an auditor from several districts, and as it has be- need of an come more generally known that such a law exists, the calls have auditor. increased far beyond our ability to respond, there being no one in this department who can give the matter his whole attention. The many requests show however that there is much dissatisfaction with the present method of accounting for public funds.
The carelessness and negligence, disregard and ignorance of the plain letter of the law with reference to accounting for public moneys is surprising and altogether too common. Sometimes officers do not so much as read the laws under which they are supposed to be operating, to say nothing of following such laws, nor is this condition confined to the school districts. In many cases it has been necessary to consult the books of the township before the district accounts could be audited. times the data needed could not be found in the township officers' of records. books until these books had been audited and proper corrections and additions made. Sometimes it has been necessary even to go to the books of the county treasurer for data that should be found in the township treasurer's books. This would not be the condition if the township books were kept in accordance with the forms which they contain, i. e., if each account was kept under its proper fund or head. In some cases the various columns for the proper data are ignored and the whole of the moneys
“bunched” and paid out in a hap-hazard manner, some funds thus becoming over paid while others are made to suffer a shortage of money in some special use for which it was voted.
It is the clear intent of the law that the people shall know how the money paid by them in taxes is used. To this end it provides that a report of all township expenditures shall be made in writing and filed with the township clerk and open to the inspection of any inhabitant of the township or any outside taxpayer, and further that it shall be read at the annual township meeting if so requested. The law also provides that the district board
shall at the annual meeting of the district give a full report of Reports to township
all receipts and expenditures. The above district report must and! be in writing and contain a statement of all taxes assessed upon
the property of the district during the preceding year, the purposes for which such taxes were assessed and the amount for each particular purpose, and the report become a permanent record of the district. Seldom is the last part of the above law followed. Indeed I have not found a single case in which the annual report was copied in the minutes and had been made a permanent record.
This neglect is generally because of ignorance of the law, but in some cases it is to cover up the illegal use of the funds that have been diverted: 10 some purpose not voted by the people, or in a few cases used in the private business of the officer, or stolen. Oftentimes the "statements" made cover a misuse of funds in plain violation of the expressed prohibitions of the statutes. The ordinary tax payer, unless he is willing to stand as a “knocker,” and besides being somewhat ignorant of his rights in the case, sits silent and goes away from the annual meeting dissatisfied with matters.
In some cases the district board take it upon themselves to make the repairs voted by the district, and allow themselves such wages as they choose, and in some cases they have gone so far as to build a schoolhouse because “the district had voted that the district build a schoolhouse," all in direct violation of the provisions of the law. And sometimes the term “incidentals” covers an actual embezzlement of district funds.
The people have the right to know for what purpose every
dollar of taxes has been used. They have, also, the power to Rights of the people. recover moneys illegally used by district officers, and officers
who have assumed powers not authorized by law should be made to account for the assumption of such powers. The tax payers alone can divert money voted for one purpose to another purpose, and this they can do only by a vote of two-thirds of all the tax payers in the district.
The same may be said of the moneys voted by a township. In the township records that I have been obliged to audit I have found different cases where the moneys have not been correctly accounted for. In some cases the school district had not received the moneys due it, but such moneys had been deliberately used for township purposes or for private business; in some cases the township books have been destroyed or were purposely secreted; in one case the township board voted money to build a town hall, and built the same, doing a large share of the work and paying themselves out of the moneys not voted for such purpose.
Frequently all warrants, orders and receipts are destroyed after a settlement is made with the proper officers, leaving the treasurer and the clerk without any original documents of defense in case of an investigation into the financial affairs of the township or district; the books may be produced but they are not conclusive. It is the indorsed warrants and orders, and the
receipts that really show how money has been expended. Treasurers of both school districts and townships should forbid the destruction of any of the original documents of their administrations.
From the above facts and the experience gained in auditing district accounts it is my opinion that each county should have an auditor whose duty it should be to audit the books of town- auditor. ships and school districts annually; also that the laws should be so amended that one of the qualifications for holding the office of treasurer should be the ability to read the English language and write it legibly.
The violations of the laws in handling school funds and accounting for the same are usually along some of the following lines:
First. School moneys are not kept separate from all other moneys. This is in violation of section 1198 of the general school laws.
Second. The school moneys are often used by the treasurer and sometimes by the other members of the board for their own purposes. These officers have no thought of defrauding the district, but it is very convenient when some ready money is needed to use some of the school money which will not be needed for school purposes. As many districts have a large amount of money on hand which cannot be used for school purposes, the money is not returned to the treasury; instead more is used. Again and again this happens until the officer finds it quite impo sible to reimburse the district when he is called upon to do so. The result in several districts has been criminal proceedings against the officers.
Section 1199 of the general school laws provides as follows: “No such officer shall, under any pretext, use nor allow to be used any such moneys for any purpose other than in accordance with the provisions of law; nor shall he use the same for his private use, nor loan the same to any person, firm or corporation without legal authority to do so." The penalty for violating this law is fine or imprisonment or both.
Third. The money is sometimes loaned to some friend or corporation; sometimes the district votes to loan its surplus funds on a real estate mortgage. In both of the above cases the law is violated. The district cannot go into the loaning business, even if it has a large surplus of cash on hand.
Fourth. The money is sometimes used for other purposes than those prescribed by law; the primary school interest fund which can legally be used for teachers' wages only, has in many districts been used for all purposes; the one-mill tax money has also been used contrary to the express provisions of law. In no case can the primary money be diverted legally from the teachers' wages fund; the one-mill tax can, however, by a vote of the district, be used for other purposes after a district has had in any school year eight months of school. In no other way can any of this fund be used for other purposes than teachers' wages. Occasionally money voted for a certain purpose has been diverted to some other purpose and so covered in the accounting that the ordinary person cannot discover the discrepancy; again interest that has been paid by banks has been kept by the officers contrary to law, such interest being the property of the district; and again, money has been voted by the district board for purposes not authorized by law, and the district kept in ignorance of the fact.
Fifth. In a few cases officers have deliberately defrauded the district, using the money of the district for private business, making no attempt to replace the same, and deliberately falsifying the district accounts and the annual report to this department. A common method of defrauding the district is for two persons of the same family or the same ilk to secure the