Audit questions Broward schools’ use of $20 million in fees

Broward schools have used $20 million from local developers to pay off old debts, instead of building new classrooms as required, a state audit has concluded.

The state Auditor General says the school district needs to restore $20.3 million to its capital budget if it can’t adequately explain its actions to the Florida Department of Education, according to a preliminary report obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinel. That could be tough for a school district already struggling with how to pay the skyrocketing costs of school renovations and employee raises.

The funds questioned by the Auditor General are known as “impact fees.” Developers of new residential neighborhoods pay these fees to the school district to offset the impact that new students are expected to create.

In recent years, the school district has received about $15 million annually from these funds. Most of it has come from new development in the Parkland area, one of the few high growth areas in the county, said Skeet Jernigan, president of the Community and Economic Development Council, which represents local developers.