Florida in focus: Auditors find millions in ‘questionable costs’ at water district

Posted: Jul 17, 2017 11:31 AM

Miami Herald: Auditors find millions in ‘questionable costs’ at water district

Officials in charge of the smallest water management district in Florida were making a big mistake: they appeared to be keeping millions of dollars acquired from land sales instead of returning it to the state’s general fund — and they had no paper trail.

The Suwannee River Water Management District, which oversees land and water resources in a 15-county rural swath of north-central Florida, failed to properly account for more than $26 million, according to a critical audit recently released by the Florida Auditor General.

Weak budgetary controls led to $22.5 million in “questionable costs,” auditors found. Officials had transferred $13.3 million of it into the district’s operating account without proper authority. They may have overspent some areas of the budget and directed money to other areas to make up for shortfalls. They set aside $3.8 million “in the event of an economic crisis” without authorization, and they steered $1.7 million “to cover routinely anticipated budget shortfalls” without explanation.

Auditors concluded that accounts were “misclassified because district personnel misunderstood” standard accounting requirements and budget staff members were “somewhat new to the process” so they couldn’t explain how and why it happened.

Sun Sentinel: Florida county axes homework for elementary school kids

Elementary schools in Marion County will say goodbye to everyday homework in the coming school year after Superintendent Heidi Maier said research shows it does not enhance learning.

The Tampa Bay Times reports Maier, who took office in November, notified parents and teachers of the change at the district’s 31 elementary schools recently. The new rule will not apply to high school and middle school students.

District public information officer Kevin Christian says the district is calling on parents to replace traditional homework assignments with 20-minute reading sessions in hopes of getting parents and students involved in something they can do together and enjoy.

Bay News 9: Florida lawmakers split on Senate’s health care bill

The revised health care bill to replace Obamacare is out and with it, plenty of reaction from lawmakers.

Unsurprisingly, opinions are split on the Senate’s newest version, largely along party lines.

“This new GOP healthcare bill is just as bad. If approved, this bill will hurt a lot of Floridians and for that reason alone I will oppose it,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida) tweeted.

However, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), felt differently.

“Some good news for Florida in new Senate Health Care Bill, reallocation of funds leads to big increase in (Disproportionate Share Hospital) money for states like Florida,” tweeted Rubio. “However, still need changes to Medicaid per person money. Not fair to punish states that held line on cost by locking them in on lower rate.”

The Senate’s revised health care bill gives insurers the right to offer less expensive, bare bones policies.

Other changes include more money for opioid treatment and funding to help states lower premiums for high-cost enrollees.