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Audit assigns a good grade to school district

The Hillsborough school district deserves a grade of B for its operating practices and the way it spends tax dollars, according to a yearlong audit released this week.

The $430,000 audit by the Austin-based Gibson Consulting Group applauded the school district's instructional programs, construction and food service operations, but said other areas need improvement.

The audit called for improved accountability. It also listed 28 recommendations consultants said could save the district $27.9-million over the next five years.

Despite allegations last year of widespread waste in new construction and school maintenance, the audit applauded the district in those areas, calling it efficient and successful.

Hillsborough superintendent Earl Lennard said the audit should help remove lingering concerns about mismanagement.

"I think the findings are on target," he said. "I wasn't surprised, but I was gratified."

The Legislature requires school districts to be audited every five years. This audit gave Hillsborough a score of 81 percent, which was higher than initial scores given to seven other Florida districts audited so far.

Hillsborough must successfully implement the audit's recommendations within two years to receive the Seal of Best Financial Management.

The School Board will hold a workshop about the audit at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the administration building. A hearing will be held within the next three months to seek public comments on the report.