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State wants $224,015 back
The school district received more per-student funding than it should have, audit says.
By TOM MARSHALL
Published July 5, 2007
BROOKSVILLE - A state audit has found 62 instances in which the Hernando County schools incorrectly billed the state for per-student funding during the 2005-06 school year, and has asked the district to return $224,015.
While that amount isn't out of line with the results of audits for other regional school districts in recent years, Hernando officials said they weren't happy about it and were moving to change their procedures.
"It wasn't really any better than the last audit," said finance director Deborah Bruggink, saying the district needed to do a better job of documenting students who receive services.
In 2004, auditors found 59 cases of accounting problems in Hernando and asked the district to return $164,757 in student funding. Pasco County had 123 problems worth $699,000 that year, and Pinellas County was dunned for $1.5-million in improper costs the following year.
This year, Hillsborough County's audit for 2005-06 revealed 160 problems worth $587,456 in lost funding, and Citrus County was billed $96,000 for 53 errors.
Under Florida's school-funding system, students outside the general population -- including those with learning disabilities, English language learners and those taking career education courses -- receive extra funding. Auditors also check to make sure teachers are in compliance with state and federal rules on certification and subject-area training.
In Hernando, auditors found that 43 out of 143 teachers they checked during the 2005-06 school year did not meet all of the certification requirements.
Of that number, all but eight involved teachers who hadn't documented adequate training to work with students learning English as a second language, said Heather Martin, executive director of business services.
"You're not going to see that happening again," she said, describing recent administrative changes to prevent such details from "slipping through the cracks."
The other eight involved families that weren't properly notified of teachers working outside their areas of certification.
"Some of the families got letters, but they weren't the exact wording that was needed," Martin said.
The auditors found that files for 13 out of 108 students with severe disabilities in the sample contained errors or had missing or improperly kept records, as did 13 of 95 files for English language learners.
Some dual-enrollment students were billed for more hours than state law allows, and 81 out of 85 students in career education programs failed to keep adequate time cards for their off-campus jobs.
In a June 12 letter to the state auditor general, former superintendent Wendy Tellone said her district was "not in total agreement" with the audit findings, but it was moving to correct the problems.
Bruggink said some accounting responsibilities had been shifted to the schools from the central office shortly before the audit, and more training might be needed to ensure the district can document all expenses.
"This is the bread and butter of the district's funding," she said.