ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. – The Francis Howell School District released a scathing audit over the spending of tens of millions of dollars from Proposition S, a $244 million bond issue approved by voters in 2020.

The most dramatic item in the audit was how the construction of Francis Howell North High School, which was supposed to cost $86 million, ended up costing nearly $164 million. The audit stated that many of the financial decisions about the project were made without the approval of the board of education.

The audit also said the district was working from inaccurate cost estimates during the conceptualization and initial design of the project.

Additionally, it claimed that the administration had not accurately informed the board or consistently engaged the public regarding project changes. Inconsistent communication from the district administration, according to the audit, affected board oversight.

The spending on the high school was so off-base that many other projects that the district was supposed to pay for had to be put on hold.

Ken Gontarz, the head of Francis Howell Families, has been fighting the school administration over funds for years.

“My thoughts are, we’re spending a lot of money, we want accountability, we want that money managed properly,” he said. “Well, what’s going to happen now? Inside of that $244 million, there were a lot of other projects that had to be paid for, a lot of HVAC, parking lots. What’s happening now, there are things that will not be done as a result of a lack of funding.”

Jarrett Pillsbury, a Francis Howell parent, said he prefers to give the school administration the benefit of the doubt.

“I think that it is good to have a superintendent communicating transparently and accepting accountability for stuff that happened not during his tenure,” he said. “He walked the public through that last night. I was pleased to see it.”

The school board vowed to take steps to make sure the overspending doesn’t happen again.

Many residents won’t be satisfied with anything less than a full state audit. A member of the St Charles school board and a state representative have both requested a state audit.