Audit bill mystifies panel

February 17, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS -- Some House Ways and Means Committee members seemed puzzled yesterday about why Carroll County commissioners want to audit the county Board of Education's performance.

Commissioners Julia W. Gouge and Elmer C. Lippy testified at a hearing in support of House Bill 548, which would give the county authority to audit the school board's management practices.

The committee killed the same bill last year and is likely to do it again this year, one member said yesterday. Del. Thomas H. Hattery, a Frederick Democrat and Ways and Means Committee member, said after the hearing, "That bill doesn't have a prayer."

Some committee members said they didn't understand what the commissioners want to do and why.

"I'm confused," said Del. Henry B. Heller, a Montgomery County Democrat. "What is a performance audit?"

Mr. Lippy responded, "Like pornography, I can't describe what a performance audit is, but I know it when I see it."

County Attorney Charles W. Thompson Jr. told the committee that an audit would be "an opportunity to see how well the money is spent."

Mrs. Gouge said an audit would find ways to make the schools run more efficiently. The schools are receiving 53 percent of Carroll's $130 million operating budget this year.

Del. W. Ray Huff, an Anne Arundel Democrat, asked the commissioners why they did not cut the school budget if they felt administrators weren't managing it well. "It seems to me you have a hammer," he said.

After negotiating with the commissioners for four years, the Board of Education has agreed to a performance audit in food services, personnel and transportation. The cost is estimated at $40,000 to $50,000.

A full performance audit could cost $100,000, according to the state Department of Fiscal Services.

Cindy Cummings, president of the Carroll County Education Association, testified against the bill.

"We have a real concern that this bill is politically motivated," she said.

The committee will vote on the bill at a later date.

Also testifying against the bill were Carroll Board of Education President Carolyn L. Scott; board members Joseph D. Mish Jr. and C. Scott Stone; Sue Buswell, executive director of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education; and George Poff, assistant superintendent of Baltimore County schools and a representative of the Public Schools Superintendents Association of Maryland.

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