Independent audit of Duval County’s proposed half-cent school tax shows all criteria met or ‘partially met’

Texas-based accounting firm gives glowing final report, despite few lingering issues

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County voters are deciding on whether to levy a half-cent sales tax aimed at upgrading the security and infrastructure within the local school district, Duval County Public Schools.

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 Houston-based accounting firm chosen to audit DCPS, McConnell & Jones, published its initial audit report in August 2019, and one year later, the final report was released. Overall, the review showed the district either fully met or partially met all six of the firm’s criteria.

“It’s really a review of policies and procedures as it relates to construction and management, potentially of the half-penny revenue that will come in,” DCPS spokesperson Tracy Pierce told News4Jax. “What it showed very clearly is the district is exceptionally well prepared.”

The follow-up report says the district upheld the results from one year prior and addressed some of the suggestions that were provided by the firm during the initial audit.

“We conclude that, with the exception of the findings discussed in the report and based upon the work performed, the District’s programs that will expend infrastructure sales surtax funds have sufficient policies and procedures in place, supported by appropriate documentation, reports, monitoring tools, and personnel to address the statutory criteria...," the report’s executive summary said.

Below are the six criteria on which M&J reviewed the district in the follow-up audit along with the degree to which the district met the set criteria:

The economy, efficiency, or effectiveness of the programMet criteria
The structure or design of the program to accomplish its goals and objectivesPartially met criteria
Alternative methods of providing services or productsMet criteria
Goals, objectives, and performance measures used by the program to monitor and report program accomplishmentsPartially met criteria
The accuracy or adequacy of public documents, reports, and requests prepared by the school district, which relate to the programMet criteria
Compliance of the program with appropriate policies, rules, and lawsPartially met criteria

Of the 26 different items that the firm examined in 2019, 17 were found to have met the criteria of the review and the rest were found to have partially met the criteria. In the August 2020 follow up review, two of the items listed as having “partially met” the criteria were upgraded to “met" while the rest remained unchanged.

“It’s great input, it’s external people coming in and saying, ‘hey, these things are important and we found a couple of areas where you can improve,' and we accept that direction, we accept that advice,” Pierce said.

The district did not fail to meet any of the criteria, according to the report.

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