State representative asks for audit into Francis Howell School District

Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 5:57 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ST. CHARLES COUNTY (KMOV) - The Francis Howell School District is building a new North High School but the receipts are piling up. Construction costs are increasing and sparking some concern.

Representative Phil Christofanelli, who represents St. Peters and parts of St. Charles County, is asking State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick to investigate.

“There’s more to the story than just the average cost of doing business,” Rep. Christofanelli says. “While I understand prices fluctuate, we need to deep dive into the numbers to figure out what happened.”

Voters approved the bond known as Proposition S in 2020.

Construction at the new Francis Howell North High School was originally budgeted for around $80 million.

The budgeted amount then jumped to more than $160 million. Seeing these price increases is what prompted Rep. Christofanelli to ask for the audit, he said.

“The district has cited workforce shortages, inflation and material shortages,” Rep. Christofanelli says. “Certainly, I understand that we’re at a unique time in our history where we’ve seen inflationary pressures but we haven’t seen inflation at the numbers they have suggested.”

News 4 reached out to the school district on Thursday, but no one was available for an interview.

Instead, the district sent this statement:

“We are aware of the request that was submitted to the State Auditor. As our Superintendent stated publicly at our January Board of Education meeting, we welcome any outside review of our process and procedures. We are working hard to be transparent regarding our finances and Prop S, and any feedback, whether through a state audit or another audit, will support ongoing improvement.”

News 4 pulled up video from that January Board of Education meeting where superintendent Dr. Kenneth Roumpos mentioned an internal review.

“We do believe that we have enough information that we’ll be able to talk to the board about changes to our processes for future work that will provide additional oversight and transparency for you and the community as we engage in future construction projects throughout the district,” Dr. Roumpos said in January.

Dr. Roumpos also shared at that meeting in January that their internal review did not include a formal external audit.

“While I don’t believe that is absolutely necessary or that it’s going to identify gross negligence or wrongdoing, I want to be clear that we are not against that idea at all,” Dr. Roumpos said in January. “We welcome an audit, whether that’s something the district would ultimately choose to pay for from an external auditor we hire or if the state would choose to come in and do an audit of the district.”

Rep. Christofanelli is asking for more transparency not only from the school district, but also from the board of education.

“I think we need to heavily scrutinize future attempts of the school district to increase the bond levy or try to increase tax rates,” Rep. Christofanelli says. “We need our explanation up front.”

News 4 reached out to the state auditor’s office for a response and we have not heard back yet.