From the Sun-Sentinel:
Charter-school teachers have been banking bonuses while also collecting other bonus checks under the criticized Merit Award Program, School Board members learned Monday.
Conversion-charter schools have spent more than $1 million of the Lake County School District's general funds since 2005 to award bonuses that other district employees can't receive, district chief financial officer Carol MacLeod told School Board members at a workshop.
They've also been reaping the benefits as the district pays for new computers and chips in for the schools' transportation costs. All these things as the schools maintain "significant" unrestricted fund balances, MacLeod said.
"We sit between 4 to 6 percent on a really, really good year," MacLeod said of the district's typical fund balances.
But Lake's conversion charters -- which include Lake Technical Center, Mascotte Elementary, Minneola Elementary, Round Lake Elementary and Spring Creek Elementary -- have unrestricted fund balances of up to almost 30 percent, MacLeod said.
"There are a lot of additional costs to this district in providing conversion charter schools," MacLeod told board members.
For example, the school district spent almost $1.2 million for the schools' participation in districtwide computer-lease programs from 2004 and 2007, MacLeod said, all without asking for reimbursement from the conversion charters.
The district also paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to help pay for Spring Creek's transportation costs.
"We're just eating this," MacLeod said.
The observations were part of a follow-up report of a recent charter-school audit and a presentation on charter-school inequities.
According to the May 2007 audit prepared by RSM McGladrey, the monthly financial reports from charter schools were not formally tracked or monitored properly. District officials have since worked to fix the problem, but they don't have any authority to make sure charter schools turn in their reports on time, MacLeod said. . . .