$4.5M budget error triggers investigation; Shakopee board hires independent consulting firm

Published 7:56 am Thursday, April 13, 2017

By Beatrice Dupuy

Minneapolis Star Tribune

SHAKOPEE — The Shakopee school board is proceeding with an independent investigation into the district after officials discovered a multimillion-dollar budget error. The school board approved an agreement with St. Paul consulting firm, NeuVest, to investigate the health of the district at their Monday meeting.

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The district has been heavily criticized in light of an e-mail sent in March by district Superintendent Rod Thompson notifying staff of the error that led to a $4.5 million budget shortfall.

The error was revealed to the board in December by then-district finance director Mike Burlager. Soon after, Burlager announced his retirement.

“Recent events suggest that as an organization we should pause and look deeper into our system and operations,” Scott Swanson, board chairman, said at Monday’s meeting. “To facilitate this, an outside investigator will be meeting with employees to obtain greater insight into our organizational health. “

Board members took four hours of questions from community members during a March 20 meeting, but residents still left unsatisfied with the district’s answers.

School district spokeswoman Ashley McCray said the board will stay out of NeuVest’s efforts to ensure a neutral, thorough and unbiased investigation.

District residents have been particularly concerned with the superintendent’s handling of the error.

McCray said that the investigation will not focus solely on the superintendent, but no one is exempt. “This is not an investigation on him. This will focus on the overall district, however, he does support this.”

The hourly rate for NeuVest’s services will cost the district about $275 an hour.