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Financial accountability may be coming to School District


After several years of questionable school district expenditures and financial shortfalls, the School Board has finally brought in a group of outside financial experts to analyze and improve financial management and spending practices.

The board last month named five highly-qualified individuals to its audit committee, inactive since 2012, in reaction to problems such as the $7 million deficit in the self-insured health insurance fund that School District administrators never could clearly explain.  Each School Board member appointed one person to the audit committee.

School Board Vice Chairman Shawn Frost appointed Robert Auwaerter, who retired in 2014 as principal and head of the Vanguard Fixed Income Group, overseeing $750 billion in bonds, money markets and stable-value funds.

Auwaerter, who was elected chairman of the audit committee, is a member of the Indian River Shores Town Council and is the town’s representative on the Vero Beach Utility Commission.

School Board Chairman Charles Searcy appointed Gaye Phillips Gilmore, who recently retired from Wilmington Trust as a Certified Public Accountant focusing on tax issues. She was elected vice-chairperson of the audit committee by her fellow members.

Board Member Tiffany Justice appointed Charles Gisler, who is chief financial officer and chief operations officer for Marine Bank & Trust, the only locally-owned community bank.

Laura Zorc appointed Glenn Heran, a Certified Public Accountant with his own firm in Indian River County for 25 years. He was past president and is treasurer of the Taxpayers Association of Indian River County.

Dale Simchick picked Jeff Smith, clerk of the circuit court and comptroller for Indian River County. He is a Certified Public Accountant and worked for Peat Marwick. He was president of the Florida Government Finance Officers’ Association and is a Certified Government Financial Officer.

The committee held an organizational meeting after members were appointed and met again last week to set priorities.

The first thing they plan to scrutinize is the “cost and delivery method of employee health benefits” in the district.  Next, they will examine the purchase of professional services costing over $50,000, a category of expenditure that runs into the millions.

Assistant Superintendent of Finances Carter Morrison, Superintendent Mark Rendell and School District attorney Suzanne D’Agresta will schedule and prepare work sessions on the topics, in which committee members will be provided documents and be allowed to ask questions. The meetings are open to the public.