Luna returns to best audit opinion
Just a year ago, Luna Community College was placed on the State Auditor’s At-Risk list for having received an adverse opinion on its audit for the 2016-17 fiscal year. This opinion set in motion a comprehensive plan for addressing significant gaps with the college’s Foundation records, management of fixed assets and timeliness of bank reconciliations.
Earlier this week, the result of this yearlong effort to address the previous year’s findings was made public with the release of the college’s most recent audit. The audit reports that Luna Community College achieved an unmodified opinion – the best possible that an independent auditor can issue.
Luna’s Chief Financial Officer Donna Flores-Medina said, “The college worked tirelessly to assuage the conditions of last year’s audit. The efforts of many dedicated Luna employees and the support of the Board of Trustees, the audit was back on track with an FY18 unmodified opinion.”
The adverse opinion in 2017 had ended a streak of 22 consecutive years in which Luna had achieved either an unmodified or unqualified opinion in its annual audit.
“The adverse opinion was due in large part to oversight findings within the Luna Foundation, which is required to be audited along with the college,” said Flores-Medina.
In response to findings associated with the Foundation, the college spent the last year working to obtain financial data and board records in an attempt to reconcile beginning and ending balances for multiple accounts and funds. This work called for a temporary halt on all Foundation activity to ensure that scholarship funds are used in the manner intended by donors.
“We are in the process of rebuilding the college’s Foundation, and this effort will be ongoing for several months,” said Ricky Serna, Luna’s interim president. “The good news is we now have a strong handle on the Foundation’s financial position and a vision for how the college can better manage the Foundation’s finances moving forward.”
The college expects to re-establish a healthy Foundation board and execute an agreement that calls for adequate financial controls, oversight and reporting requirements between the Foundation and college officials.
In 2016, the New Mexico Higher Education Department placed the college on Enhanced Fiscal Oversight following a special audit. The recent year’s improvements have administrators optimistic that Luna will soon be removed from this status.
“We hope this means we have now earned the ability to be removed from fiscal oversight by the Higher Education Department,” said Serna. “The audit is a significant piece of evidence supporting our collective ability to carry out the strategies we put in place to address past year findings. The progress over the course of one year is truly remarkable.”
The FY18 audit and grounds for the adverse opinion in FY17 are outlined in the audit reports available at saonm.org.
“The infrastructure needed to ensure financial accountability and stewardship is in place, and we need to continue to function within these practices,” said Serna. “I am grateful for the work done by college employees over the past year. Not only did they achieve these results under the shadows of accreditation challenges, they performed in an exemplary manner under the scrutiny of other regulatory agencies in the state. This milestone belongs to the employees of Luna Community College.”
According to the state auditor’s office, an unmodified opinion means that “the auditor was able to audit the financial statements (entity’s books, records, etc.) without problem (and that) the auditor feels confident that everything in the financial statements is a true reflection of the entity’s operations.”