Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Board Looks into Spending Discrepancies; Somehow, the Duval School District Ended Up Spending $21 Million More Than Budgeted Last Year

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Board Looks into Spending Discrepancies; Somehow, the Duval School District Ended Up Spending $21 Million More Than Budgeted Last Year

Article excerpt

Byline: Denise Smith Amos

By some estimates the Duval school district spent $21 million more than it budgeted for the last fiscal year.

The School Board wants "a deeper dive" into the numbers now to learn how it happened and how it can be avoided next year. The Board asked district officials Tuesday for report on spending and outstanding bills from the fiscal year which just ended.

"We know we had $21 million in unfunded spending last year," said Ashley Smith Juarez, board vice chairwoman. "Some of that the Board was aware of. Much of that we were not aware of."

Some details are emerging.

There was $3.4 million in unbudgeted costs related to teachers and other employees taking early retirement, Smith Juarez said, and $4.8 million in unbudgeted transportation costs. The state typically doesn't reimburse Duval for all transportation, but the shortfall was larger than expected, she said.

The district also received $1.4 million less in state per-pupil funding than expected, possibly because enrollment and attendance were less than expected, she said.

The state also made the district transfer $3.3 million out of its general funds to its capital funds accounts, which pay for buildings, repairs and equipment, because of a paperwork issue: the district couldn't produce documentation to prove that certain employees had worked part time on capital projects, Smith Juarez said.

Add to that the recent announcement that Duval did not have about $12 million in "roll-over" funds expected from last year, and the district only reserved 4.51 percent of its revenues, instead of the usual 5 percent, and something doesn't add up.

"Some of the things we know about," Smith Juarez said. "The question is, is it worse than we thought?"

For instance, some district purchase orders from last year are still out there, unpaid. Lee Legutko, acting chief financial officer of the district, said he expects most will be accounted for by the end of July.

The state auditor general just completed an audit with $342,000 in "findings" the district must pay because of errors in enrollment or financial practices. …

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