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IHSA blames accounting change for leap in employee costs

A day after a contentious hearing before Illinois lawmakers, the Illinois High School Association on Wednesday blamed an accounting change for a big one-year rise in personnel costs.

The IHSA spent nearly $3.1 million on “salaries, other compensation [and] employee benefits” for its 25 employees, including contributions to retirement programs, in 2012-2013, records show. That was up 21 percent over the $2.5 million the agency reported for 2011-2012.

Asked by legislators Tuesday about that jump, Marty Hickman, the IHSA’s executive director, said the figure was wrong.

IHSA officials said they would have an explanation for that later. On Wednesday, the not-for-profit association, which governs high school sports in Illinois, said its accounting firm has determined that “actual salary and benefit increases were less than 4 percent” in that time.

They said their auditors had used calendar-year figures in the group’s 2011-2012 IRS filing and, for its 2012-2013 report, instead used figures for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013.

“This practice more accurately reflects the association’s financial reporting,” the IHSA said.

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The organization did not provide documents or figures to support its claim that the rise in personnel costs was much smaller than what it reported to the IRS.

Lawmakers began examining the association’s operations Tuesday. Several legislators, mostly Democrats, want the private, not-for-profit association to disclose more about its finances, saying it wouldn’t exist without its public school members. They also questioned whether the IHSA should be giving more money back to its member schools, most of them public schools.

The IHSA takes in and spends about $11 million a year and has an $8.7 million pension fund, records show.

Of the nearly $3.1 million for salaries and benefits, the IHSA said it spent $1.3 million on “retirement expenses,” including pensions, 401(k) contributions and deferred compensation.

IHSA IRS filing