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Audit review sees improving financial controls among Florida school districts

The Florida Auditor General issues a trend report annually

The Florida Auditor General shows improving financial accounting for the state's 67 school districts in its newly released trend report.

The latest available information indicates that just one school district — Jefferson County — had a financial condition ratio below 3 percent. That district has since been taken over by a charter school operator.

In the past three years, five districts had a ratio below 3 percent. The average condition ratio, which indicates in part whether a district has adequate financial reserves, began to rise statewide after declining three consecutive years.

The audit report further shows that 42 districts had some deficiencies i their internal controls, down from 54 a year earlier. Most of the improvements came because of stronger accountability in dealing with virtual instruction.

Among the remaining issues, 11 districts had reporting problems related to the Best and Brightest teacher bonus. Three districts had not adopted state-required performance pay schedules. And two districts had not implemented state-mandated differentiated pay plans.

Three districts — Leon, Taylor and Jefferson — had material weaknesses reported.

The summary report also noted enrollment trends that affected school financing. It indicated that a dozen districts including Hillsborough and Pasco had experienced growth of at least 5 percent, and 1,000 students, between 2012 and 2016.

"Although these 12 school districts experienced an increase in FTE-based revenue due to increased enrollment, revenue increases can lag behind school district expenditures when staffing new schools and paying initial start-up costs," the report states. "Additionally, there is a risk that rapidly growing school districts may overestimate FTE when making FTE projections. FTE overestimates are not only costly when FTE-based revenues are adjusted (reduced), school districts may also have made costly hiring and other expenditure decisions based on the FTE projections."

At the same time, 20 districts experienced enrollment declines.

Read the full report here for more details.