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Palm Coast Tuesday, Apr. 6, 2021 5 days ago

Facing $500,000 in unemployment claims, school district finds approximately 90% fraudulent

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Also: Impact fee revenue rises.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Flagler Schools is facing a total of about $500,000 in unemployment claims for this past fiscal year and considers all but about 10% of them fraudulent.

The district's average in annual unemployment claims is about $20,000, district Finance Director Patricia Wormeck said at an April 6 School Board workshop. Other districts are also facing fraudulent unemployment claims.

The district's human resources staff is working to challenge fraudulent claims, some of which came from people who never worked for the school district, or who'd retired years ago, or who were still employed by the district when they filed claims.

District staff informed the School Board of the fraudulent claims at a March 23 meeting, but didn't yet have an assessment of what share of the claims were fraudulent. 

Over the past two quarters, in which claims totaled about $200,000, about $20,000 came from people who'd been terminated and could potentially file a real claim, Wormeck said. The district is fighting the remaining $180,000, of which $80,000 was from substitute teachers who'd submitted a claim.

"For every sub that we have to try to fight the claim, there's a lot of legwork that has to be done," Wormeck said "... It is a very labor intensive process that HR is getting through as quickly as they can."

The district will have to pay the claims before the fraud complaints are heard in order to avoid risking its credit rating, but hopes to be reimbursed.

Impact fee revenue rises

Flagler Schools is receiving more impact fee money this year as developers move forward with planned residential projects. Impact fees paid to the district in the first two quarters of this fiscal year have totaled about $4 million, up from $2.4 million at about this time last year, Wormeck said.

School districts have not yet received their budget information from the state for the coming year, Wormeck said, as legislators work to reconcile versions favored by the House, the Senate and the governor.

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