Editorial: Jefferson district works constructively with state to resolve interest error

Published Jul 20, 2013 at 05:00AM

Admitting you’re wrong can be difficult, especially when it means you owe somebody money. That’s the position the Jefferson County School District found itself in recently when it discovered accounting errors that left it owing the state Department of Education.

The district did the right thing, however, when it stepped forward, admitted the problem and began working toward a solution.

The district, like all districts in Oregon, must report financial information to the state each year. Doing so involves filling out forms, and that, in turn, requires labeling every bit of information correctly. People being what they are, mistakes happen.

That’s what happened two years in a row in Jefferson County, when two figures on interest paid were transposed. As a result, the state sent the district a total of $2.5 million more than it should have over the two-year period.

District officials found the problem themselves and reported the error. They are now negotiating with the state to come up with a repayment schedule. State officials, meanwhile, say they want to work out something with the district that will allow the education department to get its money back without putting the district in an uncomfortable financial bind.

This is a tale with no villains. The school district was quick to call Salem and point out its mistake. It might have decided to let the Department of Education discover the error on its own. The department, meanwhile, understands the financial constraints the district faces and doesn’t want to make them any worse than it must. If the ending to the tale isn’t happy — better to have no errors and no resulting bills — it’s surely the best that can be expected.