Auditing the Schools' Performance CARROLL COUNTY

December 30, 1992

After much political pulling and tugging, the Carroll County commissioners will get a performance audit of the schools they wanted. As proposed, the circumscribed audit will not be the comprehensive examination the commissioners originally sought, but it will be an opportunity to judge whether the public school system is being run efficiently and effectively.

The question of conducting a performance audit of Carroll's schools has been around for three years. The commissioners and the school board could not agree who would control it. School board members accused the commissioners of poking their noses into business that rightfully belonged to the elected school board. As the elected officials who set the tax rate, the commissioners contended they should be able to audit the school system -- even though they lacked the explicit legal authority -- because schools are responsible for more than half of county government spending.

This summer, commissioners Elmer C. Lippy and Julia W. Gouge began tossing around the idea of getting legislative authority for a performance audit. Confronted with the possibility that the General Assembly might give the commissioners such authority, the school board acquiesced, with three conditions. The commissioners will have to pay for it, the audit will have to be put out for bid and the commissioners and school board have to agree on its scope.

Unlike a financial audit, which verifies that accounts are accurately represented, a performance audit examines whether expenditures are producing the intended results. School officials maintain that the system is operating efficiently. Now, an impartial observer will seek to determine whether staffing levels are appropriate and whether programs are fulfilling their goals.

Instead of having a full-blown examination of the system, the plan is for a partial audit that focuses on the largest expenditures. The commissioners hope to hold the cost far below $200,000 -- the projected price of a comprehensive audit.

Even if the audit reaches the conclusion that the system is operating efficiently, the money for the audit will have been well spent. It would add authority to the board's assertion that Carroll's school system is getting the biggest bang for its buck.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.