Public schools are complex organizations with a wide range of operating units, including employee payroll, staffing, curriculum management and safety administration. As such, it is no surprise to discover running a public school is far from an easy task. Additionally, the burden of regulations and compliance requirements at district, state and federal levels can make an already complicated job seem overwhelming. These regulations and compliance requirements are often most anxiety-provoking when the time to undergo the requisite yearly audit draws near. However, if you follow a few public school audit guidelines from your KerberRose Trusted Advisors throughout the year to prepare for the audit, the process will go more smoothly. Read on for more tips on how to best ensure you are prepared for your public school’s audit.
Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute
The fiscal year-end for public schools in Wisconsin is June 30, and it is considered best practice to have an auditor selected a month before this date at a minimum. Once an auditor is selected, public schools need to have their financials audited by December 15 each year. Additionally, public schools which receive over $750,000 in funding from the federal government also must arrange and submit a single audit. The deadline for a single audit is around the same time as a financial audit, yet the date has been extended lately due to the many swift and complicated federal funding changes due to the pandemic. It is important to remain aware of these deadlines and not leave audit arrangement and financial statement preparation to the last minute. Waiting until the last minute will only result in more stress for all parties. If you have any questions about deadlines, make sure to check with your auditor.
Understand and Review Previous Audit Recommendations
While preparing for an audit, it is beneficial to understand why certain tasks are important. If you understand the purpose of a task, odds are the task will be easier to complete. Furthermore, it is important to ensure you understand the reasons why previous audit recommendations were made, as it will be easier to make sure they are implemented efficiently and per audit standards. Financial audits for schools are conducted to improve the financial governance and general management of the school, so it is important to make sure recommendations are taken seriously and subsequent recommendations are incorporated into operations. If possible and/or necessary, consult with your auditor to learn more about your audit process and why certain suggestions were made. Having a hands-on auditor with effective communication throughout the entirety of your engagement makes understanding recommendations much easier—be sure to choose an auditor who fits this description!
Determine Who Oversees Each Phase of the Audit Process
It is unnecessary and inefficient to delegate one person as the primary point of contact for every aspect of the audit. If you understand what needs to be done in an audit, you can designate staff members with expertise in a relevant area as the primary contact for auditor questions on a specific topic. For example, delegate all relevant payroll questions to a designated payroll expert on your team. This situation will make the audit go more smoothly for both you and the auditor.
If your auditor utilizes a project management software for the secure movement of information, workpapers and data during the audit, you can also use this software to assign various components of the audit process to different staff members. This will allow you to monitor them for accountability and accuracy, if you would like to review their work. In this way, you can keep the audit process moving along, instead of creating a bottleneck with one person preparing all the data and workpapers or answering questions.
The more you involve your staff in the audit process, the easier it will become, as relationships and trust develop naturally over time. Additionally, the staff will gain confidence in their job functions and understand how they end up being an important part of the audit process. Your staff can also help discover ways to perform internal audit procedures, which may be considered by your auditors in their risk assessment process, to make the audit more efficient and effective.
Organize and Prepare Documents Beforehand
Collecting and organizing the required data for an audit can seem deceptively simple, as it is often a difficult and time-consuming task, especially if left to the last minute. To make the audit go as quickly and smoothly as possible, it is important to make sure all required data is easily accessible and neatly presented so the auditor can review it in a timely manner. If you know what documents your auditor will need beforehand, it’s a good idea to make sure they are signed, up-to-date and ready to review.
Preparing for your public school’s audit can be a difficult and potentially intimidating time; however, it does not have to be. By understanding and preparing for the process, you can remove a lot of uncertainty and stress from your audit. The tips above are some of the most fundamental steps you can take to ensure your Public School is ready for an audit. If you would like further help with preparation or more advice, contact a KerberRose Trusted Advisor today!