North Dakota state auditor’s office to audit Bismarck school district

As first reported by The Bismarck Tribune, the North Dakota State Auditor’s Office has been petitioned to audit the Bismarck Public School district.

According to the article, community members have tried to obtain district financial data through open records requests to better understand rising property taxes and the apparent inattention of the district’s school board to declining student proficiency, but satisfactory answers have not resulted.

State law requires petition signatures of 35 percent of qualified voters in a school district — in this case, 4,600 — in order to prompt the audit. The Bismarck Tribune reported that the Auditor’s Office said it received more than 5,700.

“We appreciate citizens being involved in their government, and sharing their concerns with our office,” State Auditor Josh Gallion said in a statement. “We take every concern seriously and look forward to working with the Bismarck Public School District during the audit.”

Jan Wangler, the petition organizer, told The Bismarck Tribune that it took about six months to gather the signatures, and “that it wasn’t hard to find willing signers.”

“Taxpayers spend an awful lot of money trying to provide good things for their kids, and they just want to get their money’s worth,” she said. She added, “This has nothing to do with teachers; this has more to do with processes and administration.”

According to the North Dakota School Boards Association, a school board “establishes priorities for financial management of the district,” “provides the superintendent with the Board’s priorities in development of budget,” and “reviews the budget on a monthly basis and makes adjustments as needed,” to name a few.

The state audit will begin this fall (the fiscal year ends on June 30) and will be led by the State Auditor’s Office location in Fargo. Given that state law requires school districts to be audited every two years, this audit will be the Bismarck district’s next scheduled audit.

The district’s standard test results for the 2021-22 school year show 45 percent of students are proficient in reading, 44 percent are proficient in math.