State auditor recommends cost savings for Carroll schools

Carroll schools could save about $4 million annually

March 27, 2012|By Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun

Carroll County public schools should strengthen financial controls and network security, seek all valid Medicaid-related reimbursements, review some of their contractor arrangements and re-evaluate their food service operations, according to a report released by the state Office of Legislative Audits.

Those measures could save the county as much as $4 million a year, said the report released last week.

"These are recommendations," said Bruce A. Myers, legislative auditor. "We have no enforcement power, but we can advise. There is the potential to save money. Whether they save is up to them."

The county is putting in stronger controls to safeguard its network systems and a new electronic billing system will ensure the county recoups most of what it has been losing from missed Medicaid payments, about $275,000 during a six-month period in 2010, county officials said.

School officials are studying trends and collecting data from bus contractors about depreciation values and mileage reimbursement. While many jurisdictions base depreciation values for vehicles on a 12-year cycle, Carroll calculates on 10-year usage. That two-year difference could save $2.3 million, the audit said.

"We agree with some of the recommendations and have already begun some of those," said Jon O'Neal, assistant superintendent of administration for Carroll schools. "In most cases, we believe we are being responsive, even though our measures don't always match the recommendations."

Carroll schools lose about $1 million a year on food service and decreasing numbers of students are taking advantage of cafeteria food, according to the audit.

"Of the 24 school districts in the state, most are not losing money on food services," Myers said. "Carroll should look at cutting costs or increasing revenues."

While the county is aware of the deficit and has taken steps to control food service costs, those measures have not "offset the effects of a weak economy and a declining student enrollment," county officials wrote in response. The county is pursuing marketing strategies within its 44 school communities in an effort to increase usage, officials said. Officials will deliver a report to the board of education Wednesday from a committee that took a systemwide look at every aspect of food service, O'Neal said.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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