Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Report Highlights 'Issues' with Duval Public Schools' Budgeting

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Report Highlights 'Issues' with Duval Public Schools' Budgeting

Article excerpt

Byline: Denise Smith Amos

After the Duval County School Board found out the district had overspent budget projections by about $21 million last school year, the district borrowed from reserves to balance its budget, and the board called for a "deeper dive" report on that spending and the practices that led to it.

Last week, the board got half its request in a written report by two district finance officials.

Acting Chief Financial Officer Lee Legutko and executive director of financial services Ronald Fagan highlighted 17 "issues" with the district's budgeting practices that need to change. But they did not include any dollar figures or, in some cases, details with their recommendations.

For instance, their report refers to the purchase of nonessential equipment, expenditures on nonessential travel, and potential misuse of "direct-pay" transactions and contracts, but doesn't put a cost estimate on those matters.

Some of that is expected Tuesday when board auditor Michelle Begley is supposed to detail how the district spent more than it had budgeted. Begley said Thursday she was not ready to comment until then.

This week's written report does point out several practices that appear to be against board policy or values.

For instance, the report said the school district in recent years kept two parallel budgeting systems - one online in the BudPrep computer application, and one on a series of spreadsheets maintained and updated by former Superintendent Nikolai Vitti and his chief of staff.

The report said dual budgeting systems doubles the work for the budget department, introduces more chances for errors or omissions and creates multiple versions of "updated" budgets. The proposed fix is to use only BudPrep, which captures all changes and reveals who makes changes to each line of the budget.

"The process will be transparent and any changes will be reflected in the system" the report said. "Budget development and controlling oversight has reverted back to Budget Services," along with budget managers in the district.

It hasn't always been clear to the budget department who is in charge of or is the point person for the budget within all the district's various departments. …

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