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Langdon Schools assistant business manager resigns after district finds errors in accounting

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LANGDON, N.D.—A Langdon Area Public Schools assistant business manager has quit after reportedly making errors in the district's finances, including writing a check to the IRS from the wrong account.

Kensi Breyer submitted her resignation Thursday morning to Superintendent Daren Christianson, the school's leader said. She had been the business manager since July 2016, but inaccuracies found in her financial practices has prompted the school to launch an internal investigation, Christianson said.

"We want to be good stewards of the money that we get from our patrons," he said.

The latest mistake was reported Aug. 9 to the School Board by then-assistant business manager Shauna Schneider, who was filling in for Breyer while she was on maternity leave. Schneider found Breyer had used the school's savings account to pay for IRS taxes, late fees and penalties.

That included $7,545 in fees for failure to pay, late payments and interest accumulated in the third quarter of 2017 and $2,348 for the first quarter of 2018, Christianson said. In total, the school had to pay $25,137.

The check was supposed to come out of the general fund, Christianson said.

"That raised a red flag with us, so we started investigating," he said.

Breyer received a review and correction plan from the district, but she requested a less stressful position. She and Schneider switched jobs effective Aug. 20.

The district plans to hire an assistant business manager, Christianson said.

"At this time, we will be bringing back our former assistant from the business office and contracting with another retired business manager when her assistance is needed," he said in an email.

The late fees and penalties come after more inaccuracies were found in budgets, funding balances and payroll, according to a report from the Cavalier County Republican. There was a $160,000 difference between the end-of-year general fund balance for 2016 and the beginning of the 2017 balance, the article said.

A 2017 financial audit also found account balances are not accurate at the end of the year, financial statements are not completely accurate and the district improperly cut off payroll contracts.

The $160,000 is not missing from the funds, but the district is looking into which accounting mistakes contributed to the difference, Christianson said.

It's the first time Langdon has had inaccuracies of this nature in its finances, Christianson said, though it happens sometimes in North Dakota schools. He said it's difficult to find business managers who are skilled in public school finances.

Schools typically only have one staff member managing financial issues, so there isn't a second set of eyes to check the work, Christianson said. That's also why Langdon does annual audits.

Having two employees could help with "checks and balances" to make sure accounting is accurate, he said.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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