AUGUSTA — As the Augusta Board of Education voted this week to finalize its updated budget for the 2023-24 school year, a dissenting board member called for a detailed audit of the finances in the proposed spending plan that she worries might not be accurate.

Kati McCormick voted against the adjustments to the School Department’s three warrant articles that reflect $35,600 in cuts that the City Council requested at Wednesday night’s special board meeting. The rest of the board voted 6-1 on the three updated warrant articles.  

In explaining her “no” vote, McCormick said she is “unable to support a budget” that she is “unsure is accurate.” 

“It was requested back in January, when our former business manager left, that an audit or some sort, whether it be a flash audit, a forensic audit, whatever you want to call it, be completed, or at the very least, see if the city’s financial department could assist us,” McCormick said. “But we were informed the staff was fairly new and overstretched.

“It was my understanding that the former (board) chair agreed to discuss the audit topic with the school’s attorney, after she requested concerns by email. There was a change of chairs, and regardless of who or how, those audit requests have gone unanswered.” 

To McCormick’s point, the Augusta School Department had a rocky budgeting process, beginning in January, when longtime Business Manager Kathy Casparius resigned. 


Superintendent Jim Anastasio and Assistant Superintendent Mike Tracy had to assemble the proposed budget for the upcoming school year, including closing a $6 million gap, but in the process created a mistake of nearly $800,000. Tracy and Anastasio later received the help of a former business manager.

When it came time to approve the proposed $36.6 million budget in March, McCormick declined to vote at a board meeting, saying she had not had “enough time” to thoroughly review the spending plan. 

Board of Education members thought they would have to cut about $330,000 from the budget after presenting it to the City Council, but were told last week to cut $35,600. The Augusta School Department decided to use a $500,000 fund balance that had been allocated for a roof repair at Farrington Elementary School to offset the amount. They voted on the plan at a special meeting Wednesday.

A School Department must have an audit done on a yearly basis to ensure the finances are in order, and audits are usually performed by an outside company. The Augusta School Department uses Runyon Kersteen Ouellette, an accounting firm in South Portland. A forensic audit, which is a more in-depth audit, would take a heightened look at what was submitted.

Martha Witham, the interim chair of the Board of Education, said in an interview that an audit is something “that was certainly discussed as a school board,” but the board wants to see the previous year’s audit before any decision is made. 

“The feeling at this time is we are still waiting for last year’s audit, and then have to put together this year’s audit,” Witham said. “We aren’t doing anything before seeing the previous year’s audit.” 


No other board members questioned McCormick when she gave her statement at the meeting.

Anastasio did not comment on McCormick’s statement at the meeting, but said the auditors asked him to “apply for another extension,” and did not give him a date by when the audit would be completed.

Augusta Mayor Mark O’Brien said “the city is working with the best information available in finalizing its budget and we are working against a deadline.” He noted the school budget validation vote is scheduled for June 13.

“In the end, the City Council establishes the bottom line appropriation for the School Department,” O’Brien said, “but how it is spent is ultimately up to the Board of Education.”

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