RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Staff at a now-closed North Carolina charter school falsified enrollment numbers to obtain more than $400,000 in state money that it wasn't entitled to, according to a state audit released Wednesday.
Auditors of Bridges Academy in Wilkes County also said the school misused almost $79,000 in taxpayer funds to support a preschool, which also required tuition fees from parents of the children. Charter schools receive public funds and don't charge tuition to its K-12 students.
Findings from the investigation by State Auditor Beth Wood’s office — the result of tips to its fraud and waste hotline — were referred to the local district attorney, as well as to the IRS and state Revenue Department. The school, which opened in 1997 and reported fewer than 200 students on average, closed last June during Wood's probe and is now in receivership for asset liquidation.
The investigative audit cited possible violations of state law and tax rules. The auditors also found the academy didn't prepare and submit required income forms for contract workers.
The court-ordered receiver — a Chapel Hill attorney — said in a response letter attached to the audit that he accepted the audit's primary findings.
In another letter, state schools Superintendent Catherine Truitt said the Department of Public Instruction agency would seek repayment of what the audit called the misspent money, in keeping with the audit's recommendations. She also said DPI was updating student enrollment processes to detect and aim to prevent falsifications.
The audit, which did not name administrators at the K-8 school by name, said the academy's director and finance officer “colluded to submit falsified student enrollment records to DPI and to conceal the falsified records from Bridges Academy...