News Column

Manatee School Board to take close look at sales tax bond

June 21, 2014

By Meghin Delaney, The Bradenton Herald

June 21--BRADENTON -- After an internal audit uncovered misuse of funds from a 2009 sales tax bond, the Manatee County school district will take a closer look at the district's debt and receive an update on the bond issue during a special workshop Monday.

An internal audit has shown $6 million of a $45 million bond was improperly spent or not documented. A draft report from the investigation presented to the board showed money improperly spent on two school projects not included in the original bond. After the findings were presented, board members scheduled Monday's workshop to examine the issue more closely.

More information has since been received from the bond trustee, who authorizes spending the bonded money, and the information is still being evaluated.

"At present, our findings and conclusions haven't changed," Steve Oscher, a consultant from Oscher Consulting based in Tampa who is working with Shinn and Company on the report, said Friday.

In 2009, three projects

were approved for funding: an addition at Palmetto High School, work at Rogers Garden Elementary School and modernizing the transportation and maintenance facility at the Matzke complex. About $45.2 million was available for the three projects, according to the report.

Work for those projects added up to $38.8 million, leaving $6.4 million unspent, according to the internal audit draft issued in May.

Bond proceeds can only be used for projects specifically stated in the bonds, and the leftover money should not have been transferred to other projects. Oscher reported the money funded projects at the Manatee Technical Institute campus on Caruso Road and at Myakka Elementary School, and paid debt service.

The improper money transfer occurred when Tim McGonegal was district superintendent.

Monday's workshop will also include a presentation on the district's overall debt.

"We want to look at the status of all the bonds," said Julie Aranibar, board chairwoman.

For the 2013-14 year, long-term debt represented a little more than 7 percent of the district's budget.

The district's total outstanding debt -- combining principal and interest -- comes to $36 million for the 2014-15 year, according to a presentation posted on the board website to be given by Michael Boyer, the outgoing chief financial officer for the district.

The principal and interest on the $45 million bond come to $20.4 million for the 2014-15 year. The principal and interest for the district's state board of education bond is $1.6 million. The principal and interest on the sales tax bond for the 2014-15 year for the district is $15.5 million.

In the presentation, long-term outstanding debt is grouped by year for fiscal years 2014-15 through 2018-19. After that, the years are grouped in increments of five through 2034. The district's total outstanding debt through 2034 is more than $340 million, according to the presentation.

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.


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Source: Bradenton Herald (FL)

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