A state-led audit of the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) will commence this week. The audit, which will be conducted independently by the Maryland State Department of Education, is meant to ensure that County expenditures are being spent sensibly and effectively.
The Howard County Council last July voted unanimously to approve an amended version of County Executive Calvin Ball’s resolution calling for a state audit of HCPSS. Council Resolution 108-2019 calls on the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) to contract for a county-funded audit of HCPSS. The cost of the audit, which will be paid by the County, will be capped at $250,000.
County Executive Ball’s original resolution called on MSDE to contract for a broad performance audit of HCPSS in order to identify potential cost savings and develop methods to spend more efficiently. The County Executive introduced an amendment to modify the scope of the audit after HCPSS committed to sharing other information that may also generate cost-saving opportunities.
Specifically, the audit will focus on five key issues:
- The Health and Dental Fund
- Budgeting and Actual Expenditure Variance
- Personnel Cost Development
- Supplemental Income/Non-Salary Benefits
According to a County press release:
“Howard County has a well-deserved reputation for great schools and I want to ensure we are investing in creating the best learning and teaching environment for all of our students and educators,” said Ball. “I proposed a performance audit of our school system, conducted independently by the Maryland State Department of Education, to provide a full picture of our expenditures and help inform the best financial path forward. Today, I am thankful to the State for their support as we begin the work of the audit.”
Ball added, “Despite a challenging fiscal outlook, we were able to provide significant funding to our schools this year, with a direct appropriation of $620.3 million. This is a $13.1 million increase (2.2 percent) over last year’s budget and exceeds Maintenance of Effort (MOE) levels by $2.7 million. Every educator, student, parent, and resident in Howard County deserve to know exactly how and where our money is being utilized. This audit will ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent sensibly, to best serve our students and educators.”
“I appreciate the County’s continued partnership as we tackle the various budget pressures we have faced,” said Dr. Michael Martirano, HCPSS Superintendent. “We welcome the audit as it will add another layer of transparency that HCPSS strives to achieve in how taxpayer dollars are spent and the critical need to avoid future adverse audit opinions by eliminating the historic Health Fund deficit.”
“The Board of Education, working with the Superintendent and staff, has adopted sustainable budgets which prioritize our students and staff,” said Mavis Ellis, HCPSS Board of Education Chair. “We’ve made significant efforts to reduce the historic Health Fund deficit and continue to make sound budget decisions. Thank you to the County Executive and County Council leaders for their collaboration and communication for continuing to support the system’s effort and their support during this most recent budget process.”
The scope of this audit was confirmed with the engagement, collaboration and cooperation of the Board of Education, Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano and HCPSS. Moving forward, Ball, the Howard County Council, the Board of Education and HCPSS will continue to work together to review the findings of the state-led audit.