Nyssa School District overpaid by state, and state wants the money back

After the Nyssa School District discovered its miscalculation and the extra funding that followed, it immediately reported the mistake to the state’s education department, said Superintendent Darren Johnson. (The Enterprise/Kezia Setyawan)

The Nyssa School District received hundreds of thousands in excess state funding for the 2018-2019 school year after incorrectly reporting figures to the Oregon Department of Education.

The issue stemmed from the school district miscalculating the number of students in its English Language Learners program for its funding from the state, said Darren Johnson, Nyssa School District superintendent.

As a result, the state department provided about $568,000 more than necessary to the school district last year, according to Mike Wiltfong, the departments’ school finance and school facilities director. That was reduced to $425,000 after the department compared the school district’s estimates to state figures and adjusted the data, Wiltfong said.

After receiving the money, the school district applied it directly to the English Language Learner program, said Johnson.

The department makes upwards of thousands of corrections for attendance data collection every year, said Wiltfong. While “this much of a swing is not as common,” he said he doesn’t believe the school district intentionally misreported the numbers.

“The district uses estimates to the best of their knowledge and we eventually reconcile with what actually occurred – revenues and expenditures,” he said. “There isn’t any incentive to misreport.”

In April, after noticing discrepancies in their estimates from the previous year, the school district immediately reported the error to the state, Johnson said.

The Department of Education in May took the excess out of its payment to the school district for the 2019-2020 school year. That left about $188,000 for the May payment, said Wiltfong.

While not frustrated with the state agency, Johnson said he wished the problem hadn’t gone that long.

“It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t good to have to repay that, but it was the right thing to do and, fortunately, it did not put us in a bad financial spot,” he said.

The error and its discovery hit the school district at a difficult time given the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. State agencies have been asked to proposed ways to reduce their budgets in preparation for a state revenue shortfall, and those cuts are expected to trickle down to local school districts.

“It’s going to impact us, it’s just to what level,” Johnson said.

News tip? Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian at [email protected] or call 541-473-3377.


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