Lawmakers grill Pinellas school district over 2009 audit
In an unusual move, state lawmakers took a long, hard look last night at a March 2009 state audit that found problems with the Pinellas school district's financial controls.
The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee rarely scrutinizes a school district's audit, but in this case committee staff felt the sheer number of red flags - and the fact that some of them were raised in earlier audits - was enough to bring it to lawmakers' attention. The Florida Auditor General report listed 25 findings, including one "material weakness," which is the most severe classification, and two "significant deficiencies."
The former was related to the district's internal controls over its investment program; the latter to financial reporting and bank account reconciliations.
"There's very few (district audits) that ever come to us," committee member and state Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville, told The Gradebook. "If they're egregious, then they're either done with the chairman of the committee behind closed doors or they take it to the full committee for television time."
Yesterday's meeting was broadcast live on the Florida Channel. Superintendent Julie Janssen and three other top district officials travelled to Tallahassee to attend.
In a lengthy response to the audit last year (it starts on page 81 of the audit), Pinellas officials outlined the improvements they had made or intended to make. They discussed additional remedies after the audit's release, which you can read about here.
District officials reiterated today that they've made a number of changes, including the hiring of a consultant last year to review the district's process for reconciling accounts. But some changes recommended by state auditors require more staff, and district chief budget officer Lanse Johansen said, "The chance of getting this at the time of cutting the budget aren't very good."