WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - We have uncovered that schools and colleges in our area are missing or have misplaced hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory.
We checked the lists of missing and unaccounted for inventory at three places where your tax dollars are spent, UNCW, Cape Fear Community College and New Hanover County Schools.
At UNCW, we found the university is missing a total of nine items, including some projectors and high tech equipment. We don't have the exact dollar amount for these items, but we do know that each one on their list is valued at more than $5,000. The state requires the university to track all assets above that amount.
CFCC only lost one item last year, a laptop valued at more than $1,400.
David Hardin, a spokesman for CFCC, said the college owns a total of $7,000 items. The school's Shipping and Receiving Department tracks and tags any inventory valued over $1,000. Workers place labels on these items and log the serial numbers of its televisions, computers and other high tech equipment. Workers also keep track of stuff that's deemed to be "high theft" items, like cameras, laptops and televisions. Then, the college regularly audits its inventory.
"Regular audits are performed throughout the year to make sure the equipment is where it's supposed to be and stays where it's supposed to be," said Hardin.
New Hanover County Schools has a similar process in place to keep track of its equipment. However, we uncovered its list of unaccounted for items totals more than a half million dollars. In all, the school has misplaced or is missing $511,712.62 in inventory.
We talked to Valita Qauattlebaum, the school's Chief Communications Officer.
She said the missing item account for just 7 percent of the school's inventory.
"For an organization as large as New Hanover County Schools, with a multi-million dollar budget, that's actually pretty good," she said.
Qauattlebaum claims most of the computers that are on this list were sold at auction when two schools opened new computer labs.
"Really, it's a matter of better record keeping and we admit that," she said. "We have a problem. We aren't perfect."
However, it's not just computers on the district's list. We spotted a missing pitching machine and two missing lawn mowers. Together, the lawn mowers total $14,000.
Quattlebaum says it's likely some of these things moved from school-to-school but weren't documented.
She blames budget cuts.
"Right now, with our budget cuts, we all as humans are overwhelmed," she said. "We're asking all of our staff to do more with less."
But she promises, they'll do better.
"Your story actually comes at a convenient time because it is something we need to tighten up and we admit that," she said. "You won't see these types of numbers in the future."
We talked to some New Hanover County School Board members about this story.
Both Elizabeth Redenbaugh and Ed Higgins said they were shocked about the volume of missing items.
Board Chairman, Don Hayes, said, "We in the system will look at it, the superintendent will look at it and we will put plans in place to make sure that hopefully it doesn't happen again."
Board members say they will talk about the inventory issues at the next school board meeting.