Audit offers details of Harford school spending $100,000 report on budget was first for a Md. system

March 21, 1996|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,SUN STAFF

A $100,000 outside audit of Harford County schools was unveiled last night, giving the public and the local government officials who commissioned it a detailed picture of how the system used its $223.6 million budget in the last school year.

The report the first of its type done for a Maryland school system translates the complicated accounting process into easily understood breakdowns showing such things as the cost of educating a child with disabilities and spending per student on guidance counselors and health services.

"What we've done is taken the tons of data available and organized it in one place so it can be understood by parents, politicians and the taxpayers," said Jay F. May, a manager with the national accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand, which did the audit at the behest of County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann and the County Council.

But the "management audit" of spending in the 1994-1995 school year may raise more questions than it answers as people use the data to argue for more spending in some categories or in some schools perhaps at the expense of others. The audit was made public at a meeting attended by 75 people at Harford Community College in Bel Air.

"This shows us what dollars are coming in the door and where they are going out the door," said Mrs. Rehrmann.

Joanne S. Parrott, the County Council president, said: "This report helps us make sure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and going where they are supposed to be to the classroom and to our students."

The report will be used to better decide how school money should be spent in the future, Mrs. Rehrmann said.

The audit tracks in detail where money is spent whether for classroom teacher salaries or library books rather than in broad categories.

It also combines money from federal, state and county sources, and all budgets operating, capital, food services and transportation and breaks it into spending in various ways, including by student and by school.

According to the audit, the average total cost of educating a child in the 1994-1995 school year was $6,548 a year, based on the $223.6 million in spending that includes bond interest the county pays for borrowing money to build schools. That is considerably higher than the $5,447 figure used by the state, based only on the $181 million general operating budget. The school system had about 34,000 students last year.

Other findings of the audit:

* Spending on classroom teachers is about 52.8 percent of the budget, or $116 million or $3,395 per child.

* Spending on classroom materials, including textbooks, is 2.2 percent of the budget, or about $5 million or $145 per child.

* Administration is 6.3 percent of the budget, or about $14 million or $410 per child.

Pub Date: 3/21/96

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