State Auditors To Follow Up With Sarasota Schools

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING MONDAY OCT 28, 2019

The Florida Auditor General’s Office will conduct a follow-up audit of Sarasota County Schools’ budget oversight. The move came after contractors could not document some 40 percent of costs of the Suncoast Technical College branch in North Port for state auditors in January.

State Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, asked the Joint Legislative Audit Committee to take a further look at the books. “Wherever you see an almost 40-percent failure rate in a certain area, it makes you question what’s going on,” he said. “You want to see how widespread a problem is.”

The audit in January found district records lacked documentation of general condition costs for the branch campus. “The District had not established policies or procedures for effectively monitoring and documenting the reasonableness of general conditions costs,” the audit read. Auditors were able to get records for $47,294 of such costs but not for a remaining $28,355.

Sarasota Superintendent of Schools Todd Bowden said he understood Gruters’ concern. He was present in Tallahassee when the audit committee voted, though he noted he was already in the Florida Capitol testifying to a legislative committee on teacher salaries, and would not otherwise have made the trip for an audit vote.

He supports another outside audit to look closer at the numbers in question. “They have identified this as an issue of potential concern," Bowden said. “They made a decision to make a deeper dive.”

Gruters, whose children attend public schools, says he’s happy with the quality of curriculum, and as a parent that’s all he cares about. But as a state senator, he said he has to act as a watchdog on fiscal accountability. A further state audit will look beyond the sample of costs with Suncoast Technical College and see if it’s in fact indicative of a larger problem or if it was largely an anomaly.

Bowden notes that since the last audit, the district has brought in an internal auditor, a move that adds financial accountability. Gruters applauded that move, but said it’s also important to have external review by the Auditor General as well.

 

Rendering courtesy SchenkelShultz Architecture: Suncoast Technical College North Port branch.

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