CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – One of the issues on the ballot for Clay County voters is whether to approve a half-cent sales tax aimed at updating and repairing building infrastructure and lessening the Clay County School District’s reliance on portable classrooms.
According to Florida law, the programs associated with any referendum on a discretionary sales surtax have to undergo a performance audit overseen by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA).
The Austin-based accounting firm chosen to audit CCSD, Ressel & Associates LLC, published an initial audit report in September 2019, but the school sales tax resolution that year wasn’t approved by the County Commissioners.
When a sales tax resolution was approved in June 2020, Ressel & Associates was retained to update its audit findings. Its report released in August provided both the initial audit findings and an overlay of the updated findings and observations to reflect current conditions.
“As the district continues to adjust to new leadership, during the global pandemic, we will work collaboratively with the school board and community stakeholders to manage and resolve the suggested observations and recommendations," Clay County superintendent David Broskie.
The district was audited on the following six criteria:
- The economy, efficiency, or effectiveness of the program.
- The structure or design of the program.
- Alternative methods of providing services or products.
- Goals, objectives, and performance measures
- The accuracy or adequacy of reporting
- Program compliance Economy, efficiency, effectiveness
Economy, efficiency, effectiveness
The auditing firm said in its 2019 report that the district was in an untenable situation when it came to classrooms and that it wasn’t able to fully comply with the state’s Portable Reduction Act. The auditors found that portable classrooms were deteriorating with age, and costs for maintenance and utilities were rising.
The Ressel team also found that Board policies and operational procedures were, in many cases, outdated and incomplete. Case studies of three recent or ongoing facilities projects showed that the projects were being brought in on time and within budget, but to manage the many projects envisioned in the surtax resolution, additional monitoring and internal controls will be needed.
According to the 2020 audit update, nothing had changed in these areas.
Design and structure
According to the audit team, as of 2020, the district has adequate staffing overall but will need more construction support staff to manage the envisioned surtax-related projects moving forward.
The auditors said in 2019 that staffing at the Administrative and Professional levels grew over the previous five years, but staffing in the Maintenance and Facility Planning and Construction Support areas was low and had remained static over the same five-year period.
The follow-up report found that a limited number of new positions had been created to address the identified needs in the support areas and to address the needs brought about due to COVID-19. But more staff will still need to be added to keep up with expected projects, the auditors said.
Alternative delivery methods
The auditors said that the district is actively pursuing alternative delivery methods to meet the district’s growing needs and that processes for assessing the costs and benefits, and feasibility of such decisions were reasonable and adequate.
The audit team recommended formally documenting the required criteria and justification process to provide decision makers a consistent, organized method for future evaluations.
Goals, objectives, performance measures
After pointing out a need for some central oversight and stronger internal controls for purchasing by the Facilities Planning and Construction Department, the auditors found in their follow-up review that the district had addressed some of those concerns.
The district has adopted new purchasing policies and has implemented a stronger system of internal controls over the decentralized purchasing function, the auditors said.
The audit team found that purchasing procedures clarifying central office oversight responsibilities are still needed to address the volume and complexity of the purchasing processes for the envisioned surtax-related projects.
“Establishing linkages between the various plans and clear and measurable strategies and objectives for accomplishing the goals has not been addressed,” the auditors said.
Reporting accuracy and adequacy
The auditors found no instances of non-compliance and said a review of information provided to the public on the District website and through public requests found that information being provided is accurate and complete.
But the auditors recommended improving the information available on the website to better communicate with potential vendors and contractors.
A review of the surtax resolution found no areas of non-compliance with related federal, state, and local laws, rules, and regulations; contracts; grant agreements; and local policies as they relate to general operations and small to mid-sized construction and renovation projects, the auditors said.
But, they recommended enhanced controls to help the district handle the volume and complexity of the projects envisioned in the surtax resolution.
The auditors also pointed out that the approved resolution includes a statement of the district’s intent to share a portion of the surtax proceeds with eligible charters, which is required by law.
The audit team said the district has a plan to handle the calculation, distribution and reporting of charter school funds, but that some guidance from the Florida Department of Education and/or legal counsel may be required to ensure that the district is fully complying with the intent of the legislation.
For a more detailed look at the audit, go to oneclay.net.