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State-led performance audit of the Howard County Public School System underway

A performance audit of the Howard County Public School System by the Maryland State Department of Education began this week.

The business advisory firm SB & Company was tasked to complete the audit, which was approved in July 2019 by the Howard County Council.

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The state’s Department of Budget and Management picked SB & Company, based in Owings Mills, for the audit earlier this month.

“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,” Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said in a statement. “... This audit will ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent sensibly, to best serve our students and educators.”

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The audit, which was capped at a cost of $250,000 when the County Council approved it last summer, will focus on four areas within the school system: the health and dental fund, budgeting and actual expenditure variance, personnel cost development and procurement.

The audit will be paid for by the county, and there is no exact cost available at this time.

As defined by the state’s Office of Legislative Audits, the purpose of a performance audit is to “evaluate whether an agency or program is operating in an economic, efficient and effective manner or to determine whether desired program results have been achieved.”

The original proposed audit last summer was more expansive and called for looking into the school system’s legal fees and payments for outside counsel, administration staffing levels and salaries, vendor payments and invoices, procurement process and outsourced activities. A more narrow scope was then achieved through discussion between Ball and school system administrators. The County Council approved the audit request, 4-0. (Council member Opel Jones was not present at the July 29, 2019, meeting where the vote took place.)

“We welcome the audit as it will add another layer of transparency that [the Howard County Public School System] 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,” schools Superintendent Michael Martirano said in a statement.

Scott Peterson, Ball’s spokesperson, said the hope is to have the audit completed by the end of the summer.

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