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Board of Regents opens up about budgetary crisis at today’s meeting

Board of Regents opens up about budgetary crisis at today’s meeting

Board of Regents opens up about budgetary crisis at today’s meeting
April 17
18:39 2014

Joshua Knopp // Senior Staff Writer

UNT System Chancellor Lee Jackson spoke publically to the Board of Regents about the school’s ongoing budgetary crisis that could involve more than $23 million in missing funds.

In a prepared statement for the board, Jackson said the gap in funds was caused primarily by poor accounting, which involved manually entering transactions that proved inaccurate, poor estimates of incoming revenue and state account management that may have resulted in the state sending the school more money than it should have. There is a possibility UNT will need to pay the state back some amount of money, but Jackson said sorting out what transactions took place and what transactions should have taken place will last several more months. He said it does not appear that any money was embezzled.

Jackson said the school was already in the process of updating its accounting system when they realized there might be money missing.

“We knew that our financial records were clumsy,” he said. “We didn’t know that they were significantly inaccurate in various ways.”

UNT President Neal Smatresk said UNT is not about to run out of money and whatever money is missing is probably missing from reserves. He did say, however, that the reserves are lower than he feels is healthy.

Smatresk said in the next few years, part of his budgetary goals will be to rebuild UNT’s reserves to where he thinks they need to be. He said there will need to be some cuts, but there won’t be any cuts to core functions and tuition will not be raised.

“This is a significant but modest problem in terms of overall budget,” he said. “We just have to learn how to save money.”

According to a report by chief internal auditor Michelle Finley, the school began investigating when it received a complaint from the Texas State Auditor’s Office saying that UNT filed more than $23 million in accounts receivable that the auditor’s office could not collect Aug. 1, 2012. The auditor’s office complaint claimed that the account was filed to cover up for several reconciled transactions between 2004 and 2009.

After investigating these allegations, Finley found that UNT’s financial office did not maintain adequate schedules to repay debts and the school’s bottom line could be overstated by as much as $23 million for fiscal years 2012 and 2013.

A report from external auditor Deliotte filed March 31 of this year concurred, saying it found insufficient documentation and that financial statements could have been misstated because of poor accounting.

In other board actions, facilities planning vice chancellor James Maguire received permission to find a construction manager to watch over Marquis Hall’s renovation, scheduled to be complete in the summer of 2015. This will include interior renovations and mechanical, electrical and plumbing renovations to prepare the 79-year-old building to host UNT’s International Program.

More than 80 UNT teachers were recommended and approved for tenure by provost and vice president of academic affairs Warren Burggren. Burggren said this is a normal number of teachers to achieve tenure per year.

Featured Image: UNT System Chancellor Lee Jackson.

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