Audit committee members wrestled with their new potential responsibilities to serve as the oversight committee if voters approve extending a half-cent sales tax to benefit the Manatee County School District in November.
The school board’s volunteer audit committee met Tuesday for the first time since June, when the school board designated the audit committee as the oversight committee for making sure expenditures from the half-cent sales tax would be spent correctly by the district.
“As an oversight committee, you’re to sit there and say was the money received from the sales tax spent in accordance with the original resolution,” board attorney Jim Dye said.
The discussion was all contingent on Manatee County voters extending the district’s half-cent sales tax in November. Manatee County also is asking voters to implement a new half-cent sales tax to help county projects moving forward.
The committee members’ discussion focused on how they’d like to show and prove to voters that the money is spent correctly.
Members favored an annual report from the finance department that showed where sales tax money was spent and showed how the sales tax money fit into the descriptions the voters may or may not approve in November.
Chief financial officer Rebecca Roberts said the district would be able to provide that type of report, and said she’d prefer to do it annually after the books closed for the year.
The ballot language voters will weigh in on says the sales tax expenditures will be spent “to reduce overcrowding, reduce portable classrooms, renovate existing schools, build new schools where needed, purchase technology, and improve student safety and achievement.”
“As long as it’s following the language that the voters voted for, that’s all we’re looking at it from the audit standpoint,” audit committee member Rick Kimsey said.
Board chairwoman Karen Carpenter said having the audit committee be the oversight committee for the extension of the half-cent sales tax would help assure the public the district is spending its money correctly, since the audit committee includes certified public accountants.
“The half-cent sales tax has received a lot of criticism,” Carpenter said.
Audit committee chairwoman Barbara Vedder said she was concerned members of the public would not understand the committee’s role unless there was more clear policies for the audit committee.
“You say sales tax and all of a sudden there’s a lot more scrutiny,” Vedder said. “I just think we need to make it clear that this committee has accounting background and is concerned about accounting correctness, not policy.”