News Section: Schools and Education
State Audit Questions $6.6 Mill Costs for School Board and HIghlights Insurance Deficits of $8.4 Mil
Aranibar and Carpenter Demand Reform
BRADENTON -- An audit questioned 13 aspects of non-compliance with state mandates. Superintendent Tim McGonegal was left to answer to the School Board as to why there were so many facets were not followed. School Board new comers Julie Aranibar and Karen Carpenter cited the non-compliance as unacceptable -- they demanded reform to mend issues the audit revealed. The board unanimously approved the acceptance of the audit although members were not impressed with School Board Attorney John Bowen's assessment that findings were the "interpretation" of the auditor.
According to the audit, the School Board had not filed its annual report for its self-insurance group health plan for plan years ending 2006 through 2009. In addition, the group health and workers’ compensation, property, and general liability self-insurance plans had ending deficit net asset balances at June 30, 2010, of $8.4 million and $2.5 million. Past monitoring of insurance for District charter schools, liability insurance with design professionals was also in violation.
The state audit chastised Manatee County School District's use of capital outlay funding because was consistently used with restrictions governing these proceeds, resulting in questioned costs totaling approximately $6.6 million. Superintendent Tim McGonegal admitted to transferring assets from the capital to the general operating fund to cover costs that are of capital nature. He claimed that half the money in question was from transfers and the other half from expenditures on Myakka Elementary School.
Of the dispersement in question, over $1 million went to salaries for network maintenance staff, as well as maintenance expenditures reimbursed twice. Over $3 million went to the use of COPS 2007 for Myakka Elementary.
"They questioned the funding for the network maintenance staff, but they have no problem with us paying the staff that maintains our buildings. We disagree. We feel those are the same types of fees as our buildings and we would like to do that transfer," said McGonegal.
Not all board members viewed the audit as a document that could be deciphered based on opinion. Julie Aranibar suggested hiring an outside auditor to make sure all policies are in adherence with Florida Statute. She was concerned that the issues would not be resolved in time for the board to vote on the budget.
"The thing that confused me the most is that the Auditor General's performance evaluation has been done by the Superintendent for the last four years," said Karen Carpenter. "He didn't make it sound like it was a shared responsibility, so I think there is some confusion -- in his mind or the procedures here. I agree with Mrs. Aranibar. We need to be very explicit and careful and if we are cited in these audits -- they need to be corrected."
The State warned that the District needed to enhance its procedures to ensure that required background screenings are obtained for contractor personnel at schools. However, Attorney John Bowen said he believed they were already complying.
"We disagree on the interpretation. An audit site doesn't mean that they are right. If they were to do that then we would request a formal hearing," he said. "We have saved money by putting the responsibility of the contractor.
"I have spoken with the Florida School Board Association and I found that there are 51 of 67 counties who have these types of audits. Of the 51 only 3 have this type of finding regarding background checks. This finding occurred three years ago.I don't think there is any higher standard to insure the safety of out Karen Carpenter I am very concerned about this to be one of only 3 counties," said Carpenter.
Issues of the audit were extensive and included several violations. The Board had not adopted formal policies and procedures for ensuring that a portion of each instructional employee’s compensation is based on performance pursuant. They are also supposed to document the differentiated pay process of instructional personnel and school-based administrators using the Statute factors.
The county doesn't have performance assessment procedures for teachers and school administrators that are based primarily on student performance, even though they are required by Florida Statutes. McGonegal said he and staff members are working with the Manatee Education Association to implement a new teacher evaluation system and that the administration evaluation system is close to compliant.
Improvements were needed in District procedures to ensure the accurate reporting of instructional contact hours for adult general education courses to the Florida Department of Education. Improvements were needed in the District’s bank account reconciliation procedures and Certain District employees did not timely file statements of financial interests with the supervisor of elections.
The District also lacked written information technology (IT) policies and procedures for monitoring end-user workstation administrative rights.Certain IT security controls related to user authentication also needed improvement.
Superintendent McGonegal said he was working hard to ensure that the violations are corrected.
"We need to get these done and get them off our findings record," said Barbra Harvey.
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Merab is a writer at the Bradenton Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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