Manatee school audit panel seeing progress on budget process overhaul

eearl@bradenton.comMarch 6, 2013 

MANATEE -- Manatee County School District officials are well aware that they cannot clean up after a $3.4 million deficit easily, but they are working to ensure a future of better budgeting practices.

At a meeting Tuesday, the school district audit committee reviewed the recent forensic audit and the progress being made to put the audit's recommendations into practice.

Chairwoman Bobbie Windham and committee members reviewed the errors found, the corrections to be made, who is responsible for making corrections and when they should be implemented. They were joined by interim superintendent Dave Gayler and CFO Michael Boyer

"We have more audits than you can shake a stick at, and we have a committee, and we still have these money issues," Gayler said.

One problem found in the forensic audit was that the budget process did not use current and accurate data and was prone to errors. Boyer has reinstated Position Control, a software database that can take a snapshot and compare compensations. It was disabled in 2009, and it was switched on several weeks ago, tested, and is flushing out a number of issues, according to Boyer.

"We did not have linkage between departments. For lack of better words, business was done in silence," Boyer said.

He believes that the improvement of computer processes will allow for more accuracy and stronger communication.

The audit also showed that the school district did not budget appropriately to fund programs such as the Manatee Technical Institute, Amer-I-Can, and recurring expenses, such as teachers' salaries.

Boyer said that discovering unbudgeted expendi

tures will hopefully be less frequent, and in the future they will be going through every item deciding what will be budgeted or unbudgeted.

"We don't want anyone coming up saying 'we didn't budget for this.' Surprises have been too rampant," Boyer said. "It's been difficult the whole year."

The audit report also recommended a reviews textbook expenditures over the past five years and confirming those numbers.

Internal auditor Ed Daugherty said they will do an analysis of current textbook processes and make revisions. He envisions something finalized by April 3.

"It's been interesting so far, a very manual process that has kind of lost its way," Daugherty said.

The committee hopes that incoming Superintendent Rick Mills will provide guidance on monitoring the budget process along the way.

"Finance and budgeting are two different things," Gayler said. "They overlap, but they are not the same position. We need a person or persons to deal with budget and budget only 24/7."

The committee also reviewed the external audit report status. The findings discussed were disclosed in 2010. They are getting back late to the topic of recommendations from that review primarily because of the forensic audit. They stopped until investigators cleared out, said Daugherty.

Another issue dealt with the collection of Social Security numbers on forms such as applications. The school district is required to explain why they need the numbers but explanations were not always easy to find.

The district also lacked a policy addressing liability insurance that should be included in contracts.

According to the report, the district needs to ensure that the group health self-insurance plan is sound.

Another recurring issue concerns adult general education courses.

Over the past few years, improvements have been needed to resolve discrepancies between instructional hours reported on the class roster and hours reported in the student system.

Cash management continues to be the resounding issue heading into 2013.

The district will need to continue to make improvements on tracking their funds and managing expenses.

A more comprehensive analysis of the district's reactions to the recommendations will be going to school board members at their meeting on March 25.

The audit committee also went over restructuring their charter. It is currently a draft, and it will need to go though the school board for approval.

Items for the charter that the audit committee approved include meeting more frequently and reporting to the school board. They also mentioned that it is not necessary to have school board members serving on the audit committee, and that in the future those joining the committee should undergo educational classes and a proper orientation.

"Building trust is critical," Aranibar said. "Our goal is to never get back to how we are now."

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