Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton said he is examining budget and financial documents "with a fine-tooth comb."
Shelton said the move was in response to a report released Wednesday that previous working budgets were inaccurate and not balanced.
As the district reacts to state Auditor Adam Edelen's findings that there was "chronic mismanagement," Shelton said he wanted to assure school board members that the working 2014-15 general fund budget of $418 million, which they will be asked to approve Monday, is correct.
Shelton said he, along with Fayette County Education Association officials, would compare individual teachers' salaries with those of administrators in response to findings that there were extreme disparities between the two. And Shelton said his staff would investigate allegations about the financial services division and other problems that surprised him when he saw Edelen's report last week.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Herald-Leader on Thursday, Shelton offered his thoughts on the 64-page report and elaborated on the actions he was taking.
Auditors found no missing funds or criminal wrongdoing, but cited mismanagement.
The report did not identify in some cases which district officials were responsible for the mismanagement. But Shelton took responsibility, saying he was aware of dysfunction regarding the budgeting process and was trying to fix it when allegations surfaced that led to Edelen's examination.
Edelen began investigating in May after the district's budget director, Julane Mullins, made allegations that centered on a $20 million discrepancy in the budget. She sent those concerns to the board and provided Edelen with a copy. Shelton also asked Edelen to investigate.
The district received Edelen's findings last week, and Shelton spent the weekend working on the district's response.
Shelton said he initially was irritated because he thought some findings contained inaccuracies. That was reflected Wednesday in an email to parents.
As the day wore on, Shelton said his position changed. He realized that the most important thing was not debating whether the report contained inaccuracies, but fixing the problems the examination revealed. He said the district would adhere to Edelen's recommendations.
"We've got problems that need to be fixed," he said. "Rather than disputing the auditor's report, I want to spend my time on making changes. ... Whether I agree with every line of it or not is not the relevant factor. ... We've got internal issues that need to be fixed."
Shelton said that he did not know how much the examination would cost the district. He said he asked other school districts that have been through the process, and they've told him it could be $25,000 to $100,000.
Last week, the superintendent received a draft of the report that identified salary disparities between administrators and teachers, excessive travel and training in the financial services department, and violations of the procurement process.
Shelton decided then to bring two consultants into the district. One will help with a budget and finance overhaul. The relationship between Mullins and finance director Rodney Jackson was described in the report as "toxic," and their lack of communication was blamed in part for accounting errors. The other consultant will focus on conflict resolution and team-building on the job.
Shelton said that while he thought the report was unfair, on some points, to Jackson and the department he oversees, Shelton will investigate all of the allegations.
One of the things he has to decide, Shelton said, is whether any employee should be placed on paid leave until the investigation is completed.
As for his ability to move forward with what appears to be a divided school board, Shelton said he was not terribly concerned about that. Two of the board's five members have expressed concerns about his ability to move forward in light of the findings.
"I'll continue to try to reach out and work with them, provide them with the information they need ... deal with them professionally and with courtesy," he said.
Shelton had asked the board to postpone his annual evaluation until the findings were released. He said he expected to talk through any concerns board members might have during the evaluation meetings.
On Wednesday, he said he still could lead the district. Shelton said he would not begin evaluating whether to ask the board to extend his contract until next year. His contract expires in June.
Shelton said he did not think his work during the next 60 days to create a corrective plan of action for the budget and finance system would affect any other major initiatives, such as the district's effort to redraw school attendance boundaries.