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BREAKING NEWS: State Rep. Jason Fischer wants audit of Duval’s missing millions

July 24, 2017 in Hot Business Tips, In the news, Members Only by admin

State Rep. Jason Fischer wants audit of Duval’s missing millions

State Rep. Jason Fischer on Monday urged state officials to do an operational audit of the Duval County School district, in part because the Board is considering suing the state over a controversial new education law, which Fischer championed.

Duval’s Board last week decided to ask the Jacksonville’s Office of General Counsel to weigh in before the Board decides if it will sue the state or join an existing lawsuit. AT least two district school boards have voted to sue, challenging the new law’s constitutionality.

House Bill 7069 is a 274-page education law which went into effect July 1. The bill in several ways will direct millions of public education dollars to charter schools, forcing troubled public schools to close faster, and reducing the oversight and power of School Boards, which are locally elected.

Fischer, a Republican who represents House District 16, served on Duval’s School Board from November 2012 until June 2016 but resigned early to pursue state politics. He frequently objected to the district’s annual budgeting process, saying he didn’t agree with the philosophy behind some of the school spending and he didn’t want to raise taxes.

Fischer wrote a letter to State Senator Debbie Mayfield, chairwoman of the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, calling for an audit of Duval’s operations, in part because the board is considering suing the state.

“I’m deeply concerned that the school district is taking their (SIC) eye off the ball by considering frivolous lawsuits against the State rather than getting their financial house in order,” Fischer wrote.

Fischer noted the district, which has a budget of nearly $1.7 billion, spent $21 million more in operating expenses than it had budgeted, causing it to dip into is reserves.

“I have major concerns that the $21 million in overspending will hurt our most vulnerable citizens, our children,” Fischer wrote. “Every dollar spent by the school district needs to be accounted for, and my desire is that this special audit brings clarity and reconciliation to the school district’s poor financial practices so our children do not have to suffer.”

Florida’s Auditor General this year completed three audits of the district.

The most recent audit in June noted that the district and some charter schools had incorrect or missing records involving teacher certification, teachers teaching out of field, and some students. In total, the errors will cost $342,989, which is less than one-tenth of one percent of the $447 million Duval receives from the state in per-pupil funding, the audit says.

In March, the auditor questioned whether $3.3. million in local taxes were used properly for capital expenditures. Another audit released in February questioned $85,699 in capital expenditures and disallowed $46,883, also related to capital spending.

The audits covered the school year 2015-16.

Fischer said Duval’s “questionable budgeting practices” have triggered a pushback from the philanthropic sector, referring to a letter by local philanthropists, which pressured the School Board to spend more on some of the donors’ favored educational programs.

Denise Smith Amos: 904-359-4083

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