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School audit finds trouble spots

The state audit of the Citrus school system is positive overall, but notes problems with buildings, budgeting and background checks.

Published March 7, 2007


INVERNESS - The Citrus school system was praised by a state auditor who examined the district's most recent financial and administrative records. But it must make improvements in several troublesome areas.

Among the findings catalogued in the 2005-06 audit report:

-Several district buildings remain in poor condition despite inspection reports from previous years asking the district to make improvements. The state auditor found some buildings with broken emergency lighting, blocked emergency exits and electrical problems.

"Failure to timely correct facility deficiencies results in an increased risk that facilities could become unsafe for occupancy, and could result in additional costs in the future due to further deterioration," the report said.

-Twice, the district spent more money than it had set aside in its budget.

In one instance, the district's expenses exceeded the general fund budget by $165,744. In another category, the district went over by $40,536.

The state auditor found that the district had enough money in its coffers to later replenish both accounts.

Still, the report recommends that the district monitor its expenses more closely to avoid future problems.

-As of August, the district had not run background checks on all instructors who renewed their teaching certificates in the 2004-05 school year. The screenings did not happened despite an earlier recommendation by the state Education Department.

"Without following the guidance provided ... to conduct the required background screening on a timely basis," the report said, "there is an increased risk that instructional staff may have backgrounds that are not suitable for direct contact with students."

Kenneth Blocker, the district's new executive director of business operations, said the school district is working to address the few problems found by the state.

According to the district's response to the auditor's findings, this is how the administration is addressing those problems:

-The district will now be able to amend the budget when expenses exceed budget amounts. Those amendments will happen in a timely fashion.

-Superintendent Sandra "Sam" Himmel defended the district plan to fingerprint and run background checks on all its employees, including instructors who renewed their licenses in 2004-05. She called the current plan adequate and in compliance with state law.

-The district is reviewing the annual safety inspections reports. "It is our intent to correct as many deficiencies as possible during this fiscal year."

[Last modified March 7, 2007, 06:34:54]

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