Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Report Sheds Light on School District Gaffes

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Report Sheds Light on School District Gaffes

Article excerpt


Last year, school board members approved funds for the Manatee High School Davis Building Project, but district personnel used that money for other projects.

The district was supposed to provide computers and Internet access to low-income students enrolled in a virtual instruction program. But spotty documentation indicates that only two of 560 eligible students were given those resources.

On Tuesday, a preliminary report from the state Auditor General's Office pointed to those and other widespread blunders from the financially tumultuous 2012-13 school year -- some of which will threaten the district's financial stability in the future and some of which decidedly hurt students.

Paying for mistakes such as the misuse of capital funds could cost the district up to $7.2 million, the district announced Tuesday. It's a huge chunk of the $10 million it is striving to save by June to bring reserves up to state-mandated levels.

As the district struggles with leveling out this year's current budget, it will also continue to be burdened with catching up with past mistakes, some of which were announced this spring by external auditors.

The state audits school districts every three years.

In September 2012, former Superintendent Tim McGonegal resigned from the school district after announcing a multimillion dollar deficit that was blamed on a lack of administrative oversight and years of improper financial controls and procedures.

The Auditor General report points out the lack of some of these controls, as well as the misuse of monies such as sales tax revenue and construction funds. Some of the issues date back to 2005.

"Based on the analysis of past years? I wouldn't say it's a total surprise," said Superintendent Rick Mills, who came to the district in March. "This is a tough situation, but we're going to manage it and move on. …

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