Schools offer financial report

First monthly statement to board of education

October 24, 2002|By Laura Loh | Laura Loh,SUN STAFF

In keeping with a promise to hold the school system accountable to the public, school Superintendent Eric J. Smith presented yesterday the first of what will be regular monthly financial reports to the Anne Arundel Board of Education.

Previously, the information was only presented to the board once a year.

"It is essential we have this level of accountability in our effort to achieve our goals," said Smith, who has vowed to increase academic achievement by 2007. "Without that kind of work being done as a routine, you open yourself up to huge errors and catastrophic financial problems."

Earlier this year, school board members asked to be kept up-to-date on spending after they were forced by a $5 million budget shortfall to ask the county for more money.

"It caught me by surprise," board member Paul Rudolph said of last fiscal year's shortfall. "I would have liked to have known all along. That's one of the reasons we asked for this report. We will now get warning signs as we go along to know if we are going to be in trouble."

The two-page report lists the funds that have been spent or allocated since July - $118 million, or about 20 percent of this year's total operating budget - on items ranging from busing to school employees' benefits. It also compares this year's expenditures with what was spent in the same period last year.

The report issued yesterday shows that spending on administrative salaries, building maintenance and several other categories was lower than it was last year because of cost containment efforts and a recent hiring freeze. Special education spending is up because funds for some students are being budgeted for the entire school year, rather than incrementally.

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