NE schools fare well in inventory check

Every year, the city controller does a random check of equipment inventories and petty cash accounts at city schools, and every year, finds that stuff is missing.

In spring 2012, City Controller Alan Butkovitz’s auditors determined $14,000 in petty cash was unaccounted for and equipment worth almost $200,000 was gone or misplaced. The results of the 2012 audit were released last week.

The Northeast’s Woodrow Wilson and Austin Meehan middle schools were among six schools whose petty cash accounts were examined, said the controller’s first deputy, Harvey Rice.

“Woodrow Wilson was perfect,” Rice said, and added that Meehan had $2 more than it was supposed to have.

Four schools elsewhere in the city were missing about $14,000. One school’s petty cash account was $5,000 in the red, Rice said, and the principal was held accountable.

In April and May 2012, auditors visited 11 schools to double-check their inventory reports. In total, equipment and furniture worth $196,000 was missing. In the three Northeast schools included in the audit, just about everything was where it was supposed to be.

At Baldi Middle School on Verree Road in Bustleton, an $800 laptop computer was missing, Rice said, but it was located and returned.

At Samuel Fels High School in Oxford Circle, some camera equipment worth about $700 couldn’t be found. A piano and a guitar amp that were on an inventory list were missing, but a piano and an amp that weren’t inventoried or tagged as district property were at the school.

At Harding Middle School on Torresdale Avenue in Frankford, according to Rice, athletic equipment, a computer, a copier and a piano were not in place. Rice said the total value of the missing equipment was about $3,600.

The total unaccounted-for gear the controller reported represents only a small fraction of what the school district owns. Rice said the 11 schools whose inventories were checked had the highest values of furniture and equipment. Auditors got inventories and randomly checked to see if items on those lists were present.

At the new West Philadephia High School, for example, the controller’s auditors couldn’t find musical instruments worth $5,150, a snow blower worth $945, a computer worth $1,379 and office furniture valued at $3,000.

Butkovitz said items were listed as missing because of bad record-keeping, because they were removed from schools without permission or a new district computerized inventory system didn’t sufficiently account for equipment that should have been deleted from inventory.

“Deleted inventory,” Rice said, is gear that was destroyed, stolen or obsolete.

In a July 2 news release, Butkovitz said the school district “is not properly safeguarding and accounting for its $222.6 million furniture and equipment inventory.”

“They’re not taking this seriously,” Rice said, stressing that equipment — bought with taxpayers’ dollars — goes missing each year.

Schools spokesman Fernando Gallard said the district has had problems keeping track of its inventory. The district installed an electronic inventory system two years ago, he said

“Our hope is that things will improve,” Gallard said. “The challenge coming up next year is that we will not have the people in the school to use the system,” he said.

The district lost many of the employees trained to use the inventory system when it laid off almost 3,800 July 1.

ldquo;Next year, it might look even worse,” he said. ••