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Thursday, Oct 23, 2014
Commentary

School Board made right call on financial auditor

Published:

At our last business meeting, the school board was presented with the idea of putting a duplicative, board-hired financial auditor on our payroll.

The citizens of Hillsborough County expect their elected officials to hold government administrators accountable and to be good stewards of their tax dollars. Since the day I took office as a school board member, I have done just that. In fact, I have often clashed with the administration as a result of my insistence that administrators be accountable to the board and that citizens’ tax dollars be spent wisely as they would be in any sound household budget. That is why this idea received my close and thoughtful analysis.

I voted on the prevailing side in a 5-2 vote against it.

The proposal wasn’t to bring in an independent auditor. Instead, it was to add a board-hired auditor to our payroll. This person would have drawn an annual salary and been eligible for government-paid benefits, such as vacation time, sick time and a retirement pension.

As a good steward of taxpayer dollars, I always look to streamline government processes, eliminate inefficiencies and prevent duplicative services.

To be sure, the school board is required by Florida statute to have the district’s financial records audited annually by an independent financial auditor. The board is free to contract with any firm that it chooses and we currently contract with KPMG, a well-respected independent firm. KPMG sends a team of auditors, totaling approximately a dozen people, into the school district for months to conduct a thorough audit. The most recent cost for this state-required audit was $290,000. That’s $290,000 of your hard-earned money. Since they come from an independent firm, these auditors provide the board with an objective, unbiased analysis of our financial records.

In giving the proposal of employing a board-hired auditor consideration, my reasoning led me to the belief that such an auditor would have a high likelihood of simply becoming another government bureaucrat.

Like any good school board member, I review budgets closely and keep a close watch on what our administrators are doing. I also accept valuable feedback from the public on things to focus on. The board has the authority to supplement the annual independent audit with things like program audits and forensic audits when needed. When those needs arise, I will lead the charge in providing verification and accountability, but to place a duplicative auditor on our payroll would be to add a costly and unnecessary layer of bureaucracy to our school district.

Stacy White is a member of the Hillsborough County School Board. He is a candidate for the county commission.

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