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Auditing firm to analyze tax collection discrepancies

| Thursday, Jan. 30, 2003

Plum School Board plans to hire an auditing firm to determine why the tax collector and the district's auditor reported slightly different amounts of money being collected during the past two years.

Board members told Tax Collector Harry Schlegel that they have concerns because the end-of-year tax collections he reported do not match those in the annual report by the district's outside auditor.

Specifically, district officials said Wednesday that the audit report for the 2001-02 school year showed $14,570,000 was collected in real estate taxes. Schlegel reported taking in $14,580,247, or $10,247 more than the auditor's figures.

Also, the audit report for the 2000-01 school year put real estate tax collection at $13,785,032. Schlegel's list totaled $13,774,326, or $10,706 less than the auditor's figures.

"We are not saying any money was taken," said Dawn Check, school district public relations director. "The records just do not total out. It could be as simple as an incorrect line item. We just want to get a clear picture. We owe that to the taxpayers."

"These are simple accounting procedures," board member Jan Schoeneberger said. "We cannot accept (being) $10,000 out."

"This cannot go on year after year," board Vice President Gary Horner said.

Schlegel collects school and occupational taxes for the district. He said school tax collection totals about $20 million per year.

Schlegel contends the district's auditing firm, Hosack, Specht, Muetzel & Wood, never came to the tax office to look at the records.

"I jive with my system," Schlegel said. "My system is balancing. It goes along with the amount of money I put in the bank."

Horner suggested officials hire a firm "on a project basis" to look at Schlegel's records and try to explain the differences.

Schlegel said Wednesday that he plans to spend his own money to bring someone in to analyze his system. Schlegel said the analysis is scheduled to begin today.

District officials emphasized they are not accusing Schlegel of wrongdoing.

Rather, district Business Manager Mark Lukacs said the dispute with Schlegel arises out of a difference in philosophy concerning tax collections.

"We are not questioning Harry's integrity," Check said. "We are questioning his philosophy for handling money.

"There are some accounting questions that the auditor raises and Harry is unable to answer to the satisfaction of the school board."

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