Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Finally, Financially Sound | Budget Surplus for Most Recent Fiscal Year Exceeded State Mandate

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Finally, Financially Sound | Budget Surplus for Most Recent Fiscal Year Exceeded State Mandate

Article excerpt

MANATEE SCHOOLS

BRADENTON -- The Manatee County School District is regaining sound financial footing after a period of fiscal mismanagement that had the district on a state watch list.

An audit presented Tuesday night to the School Board showed the district with a 4.1 percent budget surplus for the fiscal year that ended June 30, significantly higher than the 3 percent surplus mandated by the state. Two years ago, the district emerged from five years in a row without balancing its budget.

"It's a different climate," board Chairwoman Karen Carpenter said Tuesday night, then praised a responsive finance team now in place in addition to community volunteers.

The Audit Committee, led by Joe Blitzko and composed of local residents, was created to ensure the public had oversight and input into the way the district collects and spends taxpayer money after the yearslong crisis. Committee members reviewed the work of the accounting firm Moore Stephens Lovelace.

Carpenter said she received a letter in late December from the Joint Legislative Audit Oversight Committee, which is still monitoring the Manatee district, but no longer has it on its watch list.

"We are not quite out of the woods yet," Carpenter said.

Audit Committee member Mary Foreman presented a summary of the auditors' report. The auditors issued a letter disclosing seven recommendations for improvements in internal controls and 15 recommendations

for improvement related to information technology. As a part of the transparency of the process, all the documents are available to view on the district's website. She said the committee recommended the board approve the auditor's reports and approve the district's financial statements and annual report and heed recommendations for corrective procedures.

"Who's going to own the changes?" board member Bob Gause asked, then said someone needs to take responsibility to ensure mistakes are not repeated.

Chief Financial Officer Rebecca Roberts said she took full responsibility to lead her team to ensure there are appropriate policies for activities required for reporting interfund balances and year-end accruals, which both happen once a year. …

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