BRADENTON – At Monday evening's school board meeting, in the wake of the much-anticipated release of the forensic audit report for the 2012-2013 budget for the school district, the results of the audit were criticized during public comments. The comments carried an unsatisfied tone with allegations that, despite the findings from the audit, much dirt was still likely hidden.
The findings of the report were released and distributed at a special meeting just hours before the regular meeting, leaving little time for public review before the meeting began, as one board member noted at a workshop meeting on Thursday.
During the regular meeting, many concerns were voiced about the scope of the audit's findings, and questions were raised on whether the district's current accounting practices were much improved.
The findings from the report largely singled out former district director of finance Jim Drake. Mr. Drake retired in the summer of 2012, shortly before the district publicly announced that it had "discovered" a $3.4 million deficit in the budget.
The comments at the meeting echoed what had been a major concern during the auditing process: that what former board member Harry Kinnan called "a pinpoint, laserlike focus" for the process was too narrow to find all the errors in the budget.
Financial watchdogs Linda Schaich and Peggy Martin, speaking during public comments, warned that the district would experience future financial headaches if changes were not made to accounting practices.
Alleging that the internal auditor for the budget's forensic audit has done a "horrible job," Mrs. Martin called on the board to authorize an audit that would be extended "to cover all financial accounts." She noted that in 2010, the Florida Auditor General, during its 4-year routine audit of the district's accounts, found several "major" problems with said accounts, including $6 million that had been moved to the district's operation account, implying that something similar could have happened recently.
Mrs. Schaich seemed to express the same view, saying, "What people don't understand is that only the district's general fund was audited." She went on to say that the district's capital fund, "just as serious as the general fund," has gone unaudited. She warned that the $9 million that the district expects on hand to pay off debt in 2018 will not be there: "This year, they were expecting $900,000 to be in that account. An online report said there was $500,000, which I'm pretty sure they've overstated the income by almost $10 million, then that account is in overdraft ... I think that's something to be looked at seriously."
Full results from Monday's agenda can be viewed here.
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