Finance chief leaves schools

CFO Henry J. Raymond resigns city position

Departs after one year

Budget chief left in Sept.

Russo is up for Fla. job

October 11, 2002|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore City school system's top financial official has resigned after spending a year on the job. Chief Financial Officer Henry J. Raymond stepped down last week, with top school officials saying he left for personal reasons.

Raymond's sudden resignation follows last month's retirement of Howard L. Linaburg, the school system's longtime budget director.

The departure of the two financial officials comes as Chief Executive Officer Carmen V. Russo remains in the running for a top post in the Florida Department of Education as chancellor of kindergarten through 12th-grade education. The Florida board is considering three candidates for the job and has said it will make its decision Oct. 24.

Raymond declined to comment on his resignation. Linaburg said he retired after 18 years with the system to pursue a second career.

Some school board members said that although Raymond will be missed, his departure was not viewed as critical.

"Henry's a great guy and we're sorry to lose him," said C. William Struever, vice chairman of the Board of Commissioners. "But I feel comfortable we'll be fine on the financial end."

Struever, who also is the chairman of the board's financial advisory committee, said Chief Operating Officer Mark Smolarz remains the system's point person on budget issues.

"We are buffered by the fact that the CFO reports to the COO and Mark Smolarz -- [who] oversees [the budget] and he's a tower of strength," said board member J. Tyson Tildon.

Smolarz said the workload of the system was a factor in Raymond's decision.

"He's been working on a lot of things right now, a lot of issues, because we have some holes to fill. The [fiscal year 2003] budget is going to be a challenge," Smolarz said.

"It's just a lot of stuff going on, so [Raymond] said, `I think it's time to just look at other options.'"

The financially strapped school district has been grappling with a deficit that Russo inherited when she took over in 2000.

At that point, the deficit stood at $20 million.

Nearly $11 million of that has since been recovered, Russo said.

Smolarz, who hired Raymond, said he could not assess the district's financial performance from the 2001-2002 fiscal year until an annual external audit is completed next month.

"It could be a slight surplus, it could break even, it could be a deficit," Smolarz said. "It's still very early to tell, and I don't want to panic until I'm done with the audit."

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