The audit's release comes during a period when city school officials have come under fire for a series of expenses. They include about $65 million paid out as part of liberal accrued-leave policies during Alonso's administration, $500,000 in credit card charges by administrators that included expensive dinners and extensive travel, and the $250,000 renovation of an executive suite.

City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who had lobbied for the school construction funding, warned that the system needs to fix oversight issues before renewing pitches to state lawmakers. A report issued in June showed the system needed about $2.5 billion to renovate and repair city schools, which are plagued by leaky roofs, broken windows and malfunctioning boilers.

"We need clean hands going down to Annapolis," said Clarke, chair of the council's education committee.

Clarke called for the school board to direct more money to student spending and less to North Avenue headquarters. Alonso has pushed for such a plan, with some success, but Clarke says those efforts need to be expanded.

"The school board is going to have to demonstrate an independent response to this audit that puts the money where it belongs now," Clarke said.

The audit, Clarke said, shows that the fiscal problems that have long dogged the system still linger.

"Clearly, a lot of players have been playing the old game, but it has to end," said Clarke.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

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