$8 million deficit at Manatee Co. School District gets state att - WFLA News Channel 8

$8 million deficit at Manatee Co. School District gets state attention

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BRADENTON, FL (WFLA) - A state audit revealed the Manatee County School District is deep in the red.

The school system has a deficit of more than $8 million.  That could create a serious problem if an emergency arises.

On Monday, school officials went to Tallahassee to be questioned by lawmakers.  Lawmakers were not thrilled to hear about the school district's budget issues.  At least one lawmaker asked if anyone could be punished.

A school official admitted that over the past ten years, the school district badly mismanaged its funds.

The Florida Auditor general found in June 2012, the school district had a deficit of more than $4.1 million and this past summer it ballooned to more than $8.6 million.  Because of this mismanagement, the school district also faces an additional $10 million in fines.

School board chair Julie Aranibar was at the meeting.

"When the auditor general went first and laid out the case, they were shocked, they were angry," said Aranibar.  "They started asking each other questions about what they could do to punish us."

The problem didn't lie with the current school officials, but rather previous administrations.  Aranibar she says they could get off unscathed.

"We can't find an incident where someone actually took the money and put it in their personal account. It was misused within the internal accounts and we didn't follow the state statutes," Aranibar said.

Officials say they have an action plan already in place to fix this.  The school system is in the process of cutting spending and staff numbers. Officials are also looking into selling surplus property.

"We wanna be an example of what not to do in the state and the school district," said Aranibar.  "And we want to be an example of what corrective action you should do if you find yourself in one of these situations as we were."

The school district must meet state budget requirements by this June.

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