They paid for it – Push for a state exam by Francis Howell’s school district

ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. — The Francis Howell School District in St. Charles County will this week release a potentially impressive internal audit of the tens of millions it has spent on school improvements through the budget.

The audit is intended to clear up some spending issues, like the construction project at Francis Howell North High School, which was supposed to cost $86.3 million but ended up costing almost $164.7 million instead.

The internal audit will be released at Thursday’s public school board meeting. It aims to explain why the spending of the Proposition S funds has gone so far off course.

Prop S was a $244 million tax measure passed by voters to improve schools in the district, the largest being high school.

When the cost of development was unattainable, funds for other projects were threatened, which had to be put on hold because of insufficient money.

A school board member is not satisfied with an internal audit.

Randy Cook wrote a letter to Missouri Comptroller Scott Fitzpatrick asking his office to audit the district’s expenses.

Cook wrote in the letter, “The district began construction of the new FHN high school in early 2021 without knowing the final price.”

Cook isn’t the only one who wants the state auditor to step in. Missouri representative Phil Christofanelli of St. Peters also wants them to intervene.

“Enron also had internal audits. I think we need an independent review of the district’s finances to find out why this happened and to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Christofanelli said. “The dramatic increases we’ve seen, contrary to what the constituent was told about increases in retention, have dramatically exceeded during the time they took on the project. We need to find out what happened there. There must be accountability, and if there has been any wrongdoing, they must be held accountable.”

FOX 2 spoke to Ken Gontarz, chairman of Citizen’s Group and Francis Howell Families, and asked what his biggest question mark is.

“How did this happen? We as a community have asked and asked and asked for confirmation,” said Gontarz. “We asked for numbers throughout the process, we only got them at the last minute. We got them in the timeframe of November 21st, after the train left the station.”

FOX 2 has reached out to the district for comment. A spokesman for the Francis Howell School District released the following statement:

“We are aware of the application that has been filed with the State Comptroller. As our Superintendent publicly stated at our Education Committee meeting in January, we welcome any external review of our process and procedures. We work hard to be transparent about our finances and Prop S.”

There are also changes in the school administration. Two of the current board members have decided not to run for re-election. The citizens’ initiative is aiming for an election defeat against a third member. The third board member did not want to comment on this story. They paid for it – Push for a state exam by Francis Howell’s school district

Sarah Y. Kim

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