Schools may be audited in phases Commissioners hope to spread cost

December 16, 1992|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

Having agreed in principle to pull a fine-toothed comb through the school department, the Carroll County commissioners and school board had just one obstacle: the expected cost of $200,000 for a performance audit by an outside firm.

But commissioners are now investigating whether an audit can be done in phases to stretch out the cost of examining the schools' operating efficiency.

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy suggested auditing one category at a time, starting with the areas in which the most money is spent, such as staffing.

He said he would also like to look at transportation, which makes up about $8 million of the system's approximately $110 million budget.

"The place to go is where the money is -- where the big money is," Mr. Lippy said.

He said the audit may be able to pay for itself if savings are discovered.

Cecil County, he said, was able to save $1 million after an audit.

"That's a good trade-off," he said.

Commissioner Julia W. Gouge would like to look at whether the schools and the rest of the county government can operate more as one entity instead of two for purchasing, maintenance, landscaping and other areas.

"We're operating two separate departments, but it's all coming out of the same taxpayer pocket," Mrs. Gouge said.

Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said he would not necessarily object to a phased audit.

The Board of Education last week voted to agree to a performance audit under certain conditions: The board and the commissioners must agree on the definition of a performance audit, it must be bid on the open market and the commissioners must pay for it.

The issue of an audit has been a contentious one in the past.

Three years ago, the Board of Education and commissioners agreed to the idea of an audit, but couldn't agree on who would have control of it, Mr. Shilling said.

"This time, we're saying, 'Let's do it together,' " Mr. Shilling said. "I think the most important thing we need to do is sit down to talk about what we mean by a performance audit."

As late as last month, the commissioners had discussed with area delegates to the General Assembly having a state law passed to allow counties the right to impose audits on their school systems.

However, they were told such a measure would be opposed statewide.

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