Horne calls for audit of Colorado City School District

The state's top educator said Monday he plans to request a state audit of the books of the Colorado City School District in response to reports of lax bookkeeping.

Tom Horne, state superintendent of public instruction, said his staff plans to send a letter to the Auditor General's Office about the tiny school district, located in a polygamous community in the Arizona Strip north of the Grand Canyon.

"I have statutory authority to request that of the auditor general," Horne said.

"If the allegations of abuse of funds were to turn out to be true, then one can expect indictments, and there might be remedies available with respect to school funds."

Horne was in Kingman Monday to speak during a luncheon for Kingman Republican Women.

He said he met earlier in the day with Mohave County School Superintendent Mike File, who told him that he thought the Colorado City district is not complying with the Uniform System of Financial Records.

They are the standard accounting manual for public school districts in Arizona.

"I have not looked at (the Colorado City books)," Horne said.

However, he said he decided to seek the audit based on his conversation with File and a report in a Phoenix weekly newspaper.

File said, "The bookkeeping, at best, is lax."

Alvin Barlow, Colorado City schools superintendent, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Sharon Walker, director of division of school audits for the Auditor General's Office, was out of the office Monday and could not be reached for comment.

"If nothing wrong is found, great," File said.

"If something is (found wrong), you need to take the corrective actions."

File expressed concern about accountability in Colorado City during a recent interview.

He referred to the restoration of $4 million in the state budget to help school districts offset the loss of many students at once.

The Colorado City district receives about 30 percent of the amount.

He said the funding falls under a declining-enrollment provision that was designed for school districts that serve military bases that have closed.

The Colorado City district's enrollment decreased substantially four years ago when parents removed their children from the schools in response to the advice from a prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Sants.

File said private schools that have been taking the Colorado City students plan to seek more than $600,000 in the Title 1 federal funds to pay for a reading program.

Horne said the funding request would be reviewed during the audit.

Horne, who was elected in November, spoke for 30 minutes to more than 50 people at the Republican luncheon at the Elks Lodge.

He said he has 24 years of experience as a school board member.

He expressed a commitment to eight items, including promises to make the AIMS test "more reasonable," restore classroom discipline, improve student knowledge of American history and character education.

Horne also said he wants school districts to limit district administration costs to no more than 5 percent of their overall budgets with the intent of pumping more money into the classrooms.

He added that he learned Monday morning that administration accounts for 4.2 percent of the costs of the Kingman Unified School District.

"You are doing a good job in Kingman," he said.