The Española School District got stuck with a $40,000 bill from a phone company after a miscommunication about credits on the District’s account.
The District paid a $41,733.85 invoice to Windstream, a Kentucky-based phone service company, in June that was labeled “PhoneServices @ San Juan” in the invoice listing.
District Business Manager Richard Halford said the bill was for trenching work at San Juan Elementary School.
In a June email to Windstream, Halford wrote that one of the reasons the company was selected for the work was a years-long outstanding credit the District has with Windstream.
“This is a credit that resulted in us paying for services that had yet to be performed, resulting in us overpaying for what we received,” Halford wrote in the email. “Instead of demanding a refund that, in hindsight, we should have insisted upon, we agreed to being given a ‘credit’ to which future payments would be applied.”
He wrote that the District would like to have the full credit returned and then used to pay for the $41,000 project, and expressed frustration that the District repeatedly had trouble finding the current balance of the account.
“Although I cannot say for certain what the balance is, I have faith that we will be the beneficiary in that exchange,” he wrote, implying that the outstanding balance from the credit is greater than $41,000.
Halford said in a phone interview Friday that he believed the credits extended from a project where Windstream would bring high speed internet to the region. He said he did not know all the details nor the amount of the credit as the project was before he began working with the District in Summer 2019.
Since then, the District has struggled to rectify the account.
Halford said in the spring, Windstream sent a letter and he had a phone conversation with representatives from Windstream about confusion from the bill and the different accounts the District has with e-rate billing, a Federal Communications Commission program designed to make phone services more affordable for schools and libraries.
Halford said he did not know what the work was for.
No Board meeting agendas in 2020 mention Windstream or any approval for trenching work.
District Finance Specialist Alexis Vigil wrote in an email that the District has 17 accounts with Windstream, all part of the e-rate program.
“This was an account that was not addressed for several months, as we believed that the credits that both entities agreed to years ago, would be sufficient to cover these charges,” she wrote. “Because of this miscommunication, the balance continued to grow for several months.”
Vigil wrote that the account currently has a credit, but did not specify the amount. Halford said the District does not know the exact amount, and is still trying to resolve the issue and come up with an amount.