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Letter to the Editor: Taxpayers Cheated Again in School District Audit


The long awaited forensic audit of the Manatee County School District finances has been presented to the School Board amidst a haze of semi opaqueness. The board has been challenged by how and when to present these findings, but in a typical MCSD fashion, it was presented at a time during the day virtually impossible for most mortals to attend.

There were questions from board members only-fielded by Al Robinson, Chief of the Navigant consulting team which conducted the investigation. However, with little time for board members to review the report, the questions were more generic than “laser targeted.”

There were many concerned citizens at the regular board meeting Monday evening. But it is confounding how few total citizens are truly concerned enough to attend or speak to the board about their discount. This issue only deals with the goings on with the MCSD’s Half a Billion Dollar plus budget. It was just the usual suspects at the board meeting.

The School District will spend close to $100,000, if not more on accountants and lawyers before this micro audit is concluded. Although there are some remedial actions that are suggested to keep it from happening again, it seems intuitive that most lay people could have offered for free – in fact some concerned citizens have offered for free – much of this advice.

Not only was there no investigation of the previous allegations made regarding the inaccuracies of the budget process, any attempts to obtain additional information about the district finances was stymied by the district representatives, through stonewalling or offering to produce information at some exorbitant cost.

Another conclusion states, “the mid-year budget adjusting entries resulted in a $6.9 million decrease in the budget for compensation.” This states the now obvious information that the “gang that couldn’t count straight” lost control over the budget, but missed a broader point. “BUDGET ADJUSTING ENTRIES” is a term that many of us think of as moving an expense from buying pencils to buying erasers.

Not so with the Manatee School District. It appears, that in past years, when the $$$ flowed freely, they “adjusted” the total budget up to spend any additional funds that mysteriously appeared through increasing home values, etc. Now that times have tightened for many of us, the MSD finds itself in financially stressful times and much like environment that caused Madoff to be outed, so the MCSD could no longer hide the missing pea.

Like many other reports of governmental organizations, this report makes 5 conclusions that are causes of the debacle, but infers that only one person, now departed from the MCSD, is “kind of” responsible. It uses language that, “he (Mr. Drake) approved the flawed methodologies.” “Mr. Drake failed to provide adequate supervision.” Well Folks, who was supervising Mr. Drake? Was it the Superintendent, a former financial guru? Was it the internal Audit department? Was it the Audit committee? Was it the School Board?  No to all of the above! This is the real problem. No one is at fault, as usual.

By damn, it is about time that taxpayers demand some accountability, or else they will just continue paying higher and higher taxes and rewarding incompetence. In the final analysis, it was the School Board that failed to heed repeated calls for REAL oversight. Hopefully, there will be more discussions on this matter with a new board, and with any luck, a new sheriff and deputies taking charge.

Mike Becks
Manatee County


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