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  1. Hernando

Hernando schools superintendent: District has resolved most issues raised by state audit

BROOKSVILLE — State officials expressed concern about how the Hernando County School District accounted for tax proceeds and distributed award money for teachers during the 2017-18 fiscal year, according to an audit released earlier this month. Superintendent John Stratton said last week that the district has resolved some problems noted in the audit and is working to fix others.

The biggest financial discrepancy found by the Florida Auditor General was in how the district applied tax revenue intended for capital purposes such as construction and renovation.

The district paid school custodians nearly $856,000, according to the report, based on a district official's estimate that custodians spent 15 percent of their time working on capital projects. That wasn't specific enough for the state, which said custodians should have turned in detailed time sheets to reflect their work on capital projects.

The state also found that the district mistakenly spent nearly $600,000 out of its general fund on capital work, which offset most of the other discrepancy.

The audit prompted the district to move $260,000 into its capital improvement account to rectify the problem, Stratton said.

The audit also faulted the district for giving $26,400 from the Florida Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program to 25 prekindergarten teachers. The scholarships are meant for "classroom teachers," defined by state statute as kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers.

Stratton said the district rectified the problem by using money from its general fund to cover those bonuses.

"We feel strongly that our pre-K teachers should have received these bonuses," he said. "But I understand the state language does say K-12."

Stratton said the district has resolved issues around the state's third negative finding, that the district failed to verify dependents on some employee health insurance plans and failed to quickly remove some former employees from health plans. The problem was noted in a previous audit, too. Stratton said the district has implemented a new monitoring plan.

The final two problems raised by the state will be largely remedied by new district technology, Stratton said. From July 2017 through October 2018, the district inventoried items such as furniture and equipment at only nine of its 33 sites. The district's new software provider, Skyward, will provide software to make inventories easier. In the meantime, the district has contracted an outside group to catch up on inventory.

Skyward software, set to be implemented by August, also will resolve state concerns that more employees than necessary have digital access to students' personal information, Stratton said.

Contact Jack Evans at Follow @JackHEvans.