CRAVEN COUNTY - A clerical error could cost Craven County Schools more than a quarter of a million dollars in federal aid money.
The school board applies for federal assistance each year through the Federal Impact Aid Program. The money is specifically granted to the area because of the military families the public school system serves.
The aid is worth 2.5 million dollars, but because of what federal officials call an "incomplete" application, the school system received a ten percent late penalty-- meaning the program will be withholding $255,000 of its funding.
The application was considered incomplete because it was missing one page that required a signature from the superintendent.
When the application was printed off, Craven County Board of Education Chairman Carr Ipock, said the paperwork was printed in portrait format. Officials filled out the necessary information and had the superintendent initial and sign all the required pages. The board submitted the paperwork one day prior to the deadline. Ipock says they also received verification that the document had been submitted and that all documents were "complete."
However, after the deadline for the application, the board was told a page from the application was missing, says Ipock. Board members then discovered if applicants printed off the application in a PDF, landscape format, that an additional signature page was included, said Ipock. On the same day the board was notified of the missing page, they submitted it.
The district was told the missing page was past the application deadline and the school system could be assessed a 10% late penalty-- meaning they would only receive 90% of the funds they applied for.
The district receives the federal aid money in three disbursements. It was when they received their first disbursement for the school year, that they noticed the 10% penalty had been applied. So far, two disbursements have already been issued to the district.
The school district appealed the penalty to the Impact Aid Program, but the request was denied.
The money from the Federal Impact Aid program can be applied across the school district however officials choose. In past years, the board has used the funds to pay the salaries for educational professionals, including teaching positions and school nurses. Ipock says the 225,000 dollars they are being penalized for is equal to five teaching positions.
Ipock says the board isn't done with the appeal process. They've reached out to federal representatives such as Walter B. Jones and Kay Hagan, who Ipock says are working on the district's behalf to reinstate the funding.
The school district updated the Craven County Board of Commissioners on Monday. Some commissioners say this issue was first brought to them at the beginning of August-- even though the Board of Education knew about the issue on February 1st, 2013 when the district was told of the missing page and possible penalty. Ipock says the school district is responsible for applying for federal assistance. He attributes the delay in notification is to the fact the it does not fall into the laps of county commissioners taxation jurisdiction--because it's federal money, and because the money does not impact the fiscal budget.
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