Lippy on School Performance AuditRegarding your Feb. 21...


March 20, 1994

Lippy on School Performance Audit

Regarding your Feb. 21 editorial, "Commissioners' Pathetic Performance" before the House Ways and Means committee, asking for authority to allow county commissioners, in cooperation with the Board of Education, to conduct a performance audit on the schools' activities:

I would never question your right and duty to criticize me publicly. However, it is fitting, in teacher's parlance, to go "over it again and again until you get it right," as far as the facts are concerned.

My paraphrasing a Supreme Court justice's statement on pornography was made in a more light-hearted manner than you imply. You had to be there.

You left out any mention of my report that the complexity of defining just what constituted a performance audit was tossed about by the best brains of the county and the Board of Education for many hours before a mutually satisfactory wording was achieved. I also used the example of deciding how many assistant principals or superintendents the system should have for efficient management would come under a performance audit survey.

You said when Del. Ray Huff of Anne Arundel County pointed out that the commissioners could use their control over the education department's budget as a "hammer," the commissioners should have responded that using that tool without any analysis would be akin to banging away at one's thumb. Where were you?

We not only agree on this, but use almost identical language: I told the delegate, "Mr. Huff, I am not an educator nor a school administrator. I can't run a school system and never attempted to do so; because of my ignorance, I well might wind up hitting myself over the head with that hammer."

The school system and the commissioners have done well in handling the county's money, but just on the basis of the sheer volume of funds alone that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. Please correct me if I'm wrong but isn't this the first time The Sun has ever endorsed a performance audit?

Perhaps we should let the people themselves judge how pathetic my performance was. . . . [This was my] statement:

"Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, the bill before you enables Carroll County to conduct performance audits on the major component of our budget. This legislation simply gives us, at the local level, the same ability that you have with respect to agencies you fund. We see this as an opportunity to help you and us in better evaluating and controlling our educational expenditures. Last year, education comprised approximately 53 percent of our total budget, but our contribution was only a part of the total education budget. The state also contributed in excess of 40 percent to the total. If this were an executive branch agency, your legislative auditors would examine how well your money was spent. If this were one of our agencies, our

internal auditors would examine how well our money was spent. As it stands now, there exists no system to have either you or us engage auditors to make that determination. You should know and we should know how well $130 million is spent. This is a local bill. Our delegation supports this bill. The people of Carroll County have clearly expressed their desire to have us know how well their tax dollars have been spent.

"We are now cooperating with the Board of Education to have a performance audit conducted, but the negotiations over which accounts and programs should be audited have taken over a year. We do not seek this legislation adversarially toward the Board of Education, but to institute a check and balance into our fiscal program similar to what you have using your legislative auditors."

Elmer Lippy


The writer is a Carroll County commissioner.

Health Care

Recently, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett has been very critical of the proposed Clinton health plan.

Although I agree that the president's legislative recommendation deserves scrutiny, I commend him for offering a comprehensive plan to address an important situation. It stands in stark contrast to the complacency of the last 12 years while Republicans held the presidency. And I disagree with Rep. Bartlett's contention that the health care system is in basically good shape and needs only fine-tuning.

As the parents of four children, my wife, Ann, and I frequently come into contact with doctors, hospitals and emergency rooms. What parent doesn't? How often have we asked ourselves during cold and flu season if a child's earache will subside without a $28 visit to the doctor? How frequently have we skipped the $18 recheck when everything seemed fine? How many years have gone by when we just missed the $250 deductible on each family member? Too many Americans, even those with very good health insurance, ask themselves the same questions month after month and year after year.

Thirty-seven million Americans lack health insurance altogether. More than 50 million Americans are without health insurance some time during the year.

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