University’s $70M debt to state mysteriously disappears in a blur of lawmaking

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The University of North Texas system will skate on a bill for $70 million in public money that it received and then spent on ineligible employee pay and benefits.

The university system collected the cash between 2004 and 2014 because of its poor accounting and other factors, state auditors said.

Though the auditor recommended repayment, the state Legislature’s recent budget  allows UNT to keep the cash if the university can satisfy audit requirements for 2012, 2013 and 2014 – and if it promises stringent oversight of its finances.

The bottom line is that UNT “got funding for those 10 years it was not entitled to,” said Phillip Young, a financial planner who assisted faculty members in establishing a retirement plan between 1992 and 2006.

Young says he warned the university in 2009 that its financial controls were ineffective.

On February 11, the school paid back $4.7 million of the amount it owed, according to a federal filing by the university. At the time, it anticipated having to refund up to $64.6 million more to the state.

The state audit, released in September, found the university received $83 million in excess funding between 2004 and 2014 because of what it called bad bookkeeping. The university’s own financial staff negotiated that number down to about $70 million.

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