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Eleven apply to be schools CFO but none make the grade

BROOKSVILLE — The search for the right person to manage the Hernando County school district's budget of more than $250 million has hit a bit of a snag:

None of the 11 candidates who applied were up to snuff.

"The pool doesn't seem to be too deep," said superintendent Bryan Blavatt. "Education financing is quite complicated. You really want someone who has some background."

The district is readvertising the position in hopes of filling it before budget season, the time when the district must prepare the upcoming year's budget. The new deadline to apply is March 6.

The job of chief financial officer, among the highest-paid positions in the district, has been vacant since Desiree Henegar resigned in January amid reports that she was posting sexually explicit material to her blog during work hours.

The district quickly began advertising the position after she left, originally posting it Jan. 7.

Eleven people applied. Six met the job description. Two had school district finance experience.

The requirements are high.

A candidate must have a master's degree in accounting or a related business field, or a valid Florida certified public accountant license, according to the job description. Other requirements include excellent communication and management skills.

An eligible candidate must also have had a previous leadership role.

In addition, the person must have knowledge of all federal requirements relating to public employer financial and accounting practices and knowledge of Florida statutes and administrative codes related to finance, employment and insurance, as well as School Board policies.

There are two main issues at play, says Blavatt:

One, the position is highly specialized. Two, Hernando pays less than many other counties.

"It really limits our pool of candidates," the superintendent said.

The starting salary for the job is advertised at $78,800 a year.

The average salary last year in Florida for school finance officers was $88,133.

Laura Shaud, president of the Florida School Finance Officers Association, agreed those two factors make it challenging to find qualified candidates.

A certified public accountant with a few years of experience in the private sector can make nearly the same amount as is being advertised in Hernando.

"I can tell you what I do here is more difficult than what I did with a CPA firm," said Shaud, who is director of budgeting for the Escambia County school system.

She said many districts struggle to find qualified chief financial officers.

"School district accounting is considerably different than other governmental accounting," she said.

Hernando has run into similar problems in the recent past.

The last time the district advertised for a chief financial officer, it only received nine applications. The advertised salary range at the time was from $66,572 to $75,650.

The average school financial officer in the state made considerably more.

The Hernando School Board, at the time, had a chance to bump the range up considerably, but rejected it due to budget concerns.

Board members eventually tweaked the starting salary, increasing it to $78,676 to help attract and retain someone with experience.

They offered Henegar the job in February 2009.

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

Eleven apply to be schools CFO but none make the grade 02/27/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 7:26pm]
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