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Manatee County School Board Approves Firm for External Auditing Services


BRADENTON -- At Tuesday's meeting, the Manatee School Board approved of a certified public accounting firm proposed to perform the district's external auditing services. 

The vote followed a presentation heard by board members during the workshop prior to the meeting.

Joseph Blitzko, Chair of the Audit Committee, which recommended the appointment of Moore, Stephens, Lovelace, explained during the presentation the selection process, which started in November of 2013. Board members had been given the firm's initial presentation to the audit committee for review prior to the workshop.

The extenal auditing services provided by the firm would include both district financial statements and school internal funds financial statements. Preparation and review of the CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Financial Report) from fiscal years 2014- 2018 would also be performed by the firm.

Blitzko explained that the audit committee went through the evaluation process under the requirements of Florida law, which states that the selection of an auditing firm must go to what said body judges as the most qualified firm (if not, the reasons for not selecting the most qualified firm must be documented).

After evaluations of several different firms, the committee ranked MSL as first; Carr, Riggs & Ingram as second; and Cherry Bekaert as third. MCSD Budget Director Heather Jenkins also participated in the committee's evaluation process of potential firms.

Blitzko went on to identify four factors that went into the evaluation of the different firms: qualification and experience of the firm; the staff's experience and how it would coordinate; how the firm would approach working on the audit; and the price.

MSL offered the district $664,000 for its services; Carr, Riggs & Ingram, $994,000; Cherry Bekaert, $648,629.

Board member Bob Gause mentioned the different monetary offers from the top 3 ranked firms, saying, "Some may look at this as the low bidder got the job," adding that the selected firm has experience as well as a "competitive price."

The firm has experience working under several Florida school districts, which it touted during its presentation to the board.

During the presentation for the workshop's strategic planning overview, part of which was dedicated to discussing how the district would move forward in achieving and sustaining financial solvency,  Deputy Superintendent Don Hall advised that hired internal auditors Shinn & Co. would be assisting the district "operational activites that we put together as a result of the audit finding and ensuring that those actually will meet audit criteria for resolving them."

Shinn & Co. gave a presentation on a report that had been written to "assist in determining and keeping in mind financial goals of the District this year," the content of which Mills said he fully agreed with. "Much of the information we already have  -- much of this is already being generated. It's formalizing it into a monthly report," he said.

Mills added that it would be up to the board as to what parts of the document it wanted to focus on during the monthly reports, if not all of it. He asked, "How are we going to come to an agreement of what we want to present to the board and to the community every month around indicators that create trust and transparency and confidence in our fiscal system?"

Hall said, "Our goal (moving forward from the report) is that next month's financial update ... (is put together) in a format that makes sense, so that everybody is comfortable with it. 

Board member Dave Miner said during the workshop that he did not want to wait until next month to go over the findings from the processes stated in the report.

"If I understand from the discussion, basically all the answers to the questions (in the report) are now available," said Miner, "and the issue is putting them in an easily understood format. I would hope that we're not having to wait a month, with one month left in the fiscal year, (for the findings)." Instead, Miner suggested having the findings ready for review in a week.

Gause said, "We know that we have an expected fund balance of $8.043 million at the end of this year based on what has been going on. We know that we're facing ten million dollars in fines ... I'd like (the report) sooner than later, but I don't want the community to think that we board members have this information readily available to us right now."

Karen Carpenter concurred, saying "we should not wait" a month for the findings. Gause added to his previous comments, cautioning not to rush the report in a way that might inhibit accuracy.

Miner replied that working on the findings and presenting it in the format suggested by the document should take precedence over all else.

The board will have a special workshop on May 6 to discuss the findings that it will be presented with next week.


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