MANATEE-- The Manatee County school board will need to react to findings in the external audit report soon.
The school board Monday held a workshop with audit committee chair Bobbie Windham and representatives from the audit firm Mauldin and Jenkins.
Tommye Barie and Leanne Cross, who conducted the audit, brought their recommendations, as detailed in the audit report, to the board.
Problems detailed by auditors included:
-- A lack of guidance and authoritative consensus in the use of federal funding.
-- A deficit in the workers' compensation fund, caused by costs being allocated in a way that is not consistent with state standards. To close the deficit, the district will either need to reimburse the fund $824,000 or readjust its contributions.
-- Discrepancies in the records for the district adult education program.
School board member Bob Gause stated Monday that there is no way to get by fiscally unscathed.
"This will affect us moving forward," Gause said.
The time the district has to address particular shortcomings to the satisfaction of state officials ranges from about six months to two years.
Superintendent Rick Mills said he will be meeting Thursday with senior staff for a "detailed plan."
School board chairwoman Karen Carpenter said many of the problems uncovered by auditors repeated several times over the past three years.
"I am not happy to possibly have to go to (state officials) to explain," Carpenter said.
Other issues included the unauthorized use of about $1 million in operating funds to pay for copying charges.
The problems that Mauldins and Jenkins presented are not newly found, yet they remain unresolved. The school board said Monday that the main issue surrounding the recovery from the deficit is "visibility."
"In order to follow back we need to know who to go to," school board vice chairwoman Julie Aranibar said. "It would have been helpful to have these reports months ago."
Mauldin and Jenkins told the school board that one of the school district's downfalls is "maintenance of effort," or documenting money spent.
However, reaction times to problems have not been fast, as some issues have been found repeatedly for years in a row.
Mauldin and Jenkins recommended the district incorporate position control to set aside salaries in the budget so they know where they stand at any time. They said the district needs to have a detailed analysis prior to adoption of budget and adjust throughout the year.
School board members agreed that a dashboard is needed to see issues in the budget more quickly.
"We need to see numbers that are a problem, fast," Gause said.
School board members hope that budgeting will be easier to manage in the future with payroll encumbrance and with a database of all employees that displays contract amounts and expenses, to give a full year outlook on salaries. Michael Boyer, the chief financial officer for the school district, said that in prior years the school district was lacking such an outlook.
"With this system turned off, we would be operating blind," Mills said.
In the time that software was out of use, the district hired too many people, resulting in the staffing issue the board is now dealing with. Officials have said job cuts are needed.
The board is hoping that most will be eliminated through attrition.
In the meantime, Mills asserted that the budget tracking program would never get turned off again.
The school board acknowledged that they need to get back on the right track soon.
"The budget is very important and requires attention and scrutiny and maintenance," Carpenter said.
Mauldin and Jenkins asserted that the budget was balanced until the budget amendment approval in September 2012.
"We have some more work to do," Carpenter said.
Other issues found in the audit include vacation payouts in excess of the 60 days the state allows employees who are retiring or leaving and the misuse of Public Education Outlay funds to repay debts of around $700,000, which Boyer says has already been replenished.
Gause said that the biggest take-away from the workshop is making sure the district is better documenting the money spent.
"It needs to be easier to see problems," he said.