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Audit reveals loss of schools' old electronics

The Pasco County School District had to throw out about $150,000 in telecommunications equipment after it rusted and warped while stored in an unair-conditioned trailer two years ago.

The equipment, purchased for $321,000 in the early 1990s, could have been resold at auction or used for spare parts, school officials said. Instead, it ended up in the trash bin.

"Nobody had any idea that the heat or humidity (in the trailer) would do that kind of damage," superintendent John Long said Thursday. "We just made a mistake."

The equipment had been removed from schools and offices in 1999 and 2000 when the district upgraded its telephone system. In addition to old phones, the equipment thrown out in 2000 consisted of computer hubs, television parts and electronic storage racks, said Tom Whitehall, the district employee who put the supplies into the unair-conditioned trailer.

Whitehall said he planned to use the equipment for spare parts. After district technicians had "cannibalized" the electronics, the leftovers would have been sold at auction or thrown out, he said. Before that could happen, though, heat and humidity destroyed it.

"It's hard to say what the value was," Whitehall said. "Most people wouldn't have wanted any of it."

Chuck Rushe, the district's chief financial officer, said the equipment probably could have brought the district $150,000 at auction, "assuming we could have found a buyer."

The loss came to light when auditors failed to locate the equipment during a check of district inventory.

Long said all old electronics equipment is now stored in air-conditioned trailers.

"Procedures are now in place," Long said. "It should never happen again."

_ Kent Fischer covers education in Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6241 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6241. His e-mail address is kfischersptimes.com.

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