The county Board of Education, on a 3-2 vote, approved a $44,800 proposal from Arthur Anderson & Co. of Baltimore to conduct a management audit of the system's finance and personnel departments.
But theboard did not rank the proposal as a high priority and did not include money for the audit, which will be passed onto the County Commissioners for financing.
Ironically, an independent school management audit was initially sought by the commissioners about a year ago. Board members adamantlyopposed a county-controlled performance audit and accused the commissioners of trying to usurp their role in managing the public school system.
The turf battle ended last February when the state attorneygeneral concluded state law "limits the county to an audit of the board's financial transactions and accounts."
The school administration then decided to press ahead with an audit, anyway. Plans for a more extensive review were scaled down and the board has delayed actingon the proposal because school management has been tied up with contract negotiations and next year's budget.
"While it may be a useful management tool, it may be difficult to justify spending $44,800 under these economic conditions," Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said at last week's board meeting.
Shilling said that he would rathersee any additional county money spent on the hiring of teachers. Board member Ann M. Ballard, who has frequently voiced concerns about overcrowded classrooms, agreed with the superintendent.
Board memberCarolyn L. Scott said she wanted to proceed with presenting the proposal to the commissioners but did not want to rank the audit as a high priority.
"If I felt we had (management) problems, I would give the audit higher priority," Scott said.
Board member Joseph D. Mish Jr., who along with Ballard voted against the audit, said he was concerned about asking the county for more money during gloomy economictimes.
But Board President John D. Myers Jr. said that by lettingthe proposal drop, the school board could be perceived by the community as not wanting to go through with the audit, even though "we havea good school system."
He said money was not the only reason for giving the audit a lower priority. The audit, which would include aspects of data processing, would require much staff time, he said.