A timetable for auditing the Carroll County schools is emerging, as school and county staff draft a specific list of what an auditor will measure.
The document is a "request for proposals," to be advertised once it is approved by the Board of Education and the county commissioners next month.
A pre-bid conference is set for Jan. 17, and it is possible a consultant could be hired in March, start work in April and finish in May, said William Hyde, assistant superintendent of Carroll County schools.
As written now, the proposal asks consultants to submit bids based on auditing the transportation, food service and personnel departments of the schools.
"It's a reasonable approach to an eventual full audit of the Board of Education," said Steven Powell, the county's budget and management director.
"We're pleased with the quality of the document we have," Mr. Hyde said. Wooden and Benson of Towson, the firm that does financial audits of the county and schools, assisted staff in writing the proposal, he said.
The schools get a full financial audit every year. This "performance" audit is designed to measure how well the schools and offices are meeting their goals. For example, in personnel, it will review how staff are certified, recruited and promoted. It will examine record-keeping, benefits management and professional development, according to the newly drafted proposal.
In transportation, it will examine staffing, routing and scheduling, safety procedures, maintenance and other areas.
In food service, the audit will examine nutrition, storage and distribution, staffing and other issues.
The performance audit has been a sore point between the commissioners and the school board for years. In 1989, the school board agreed to an audit as long as it had some control over the scope. The commissioners instead sought an attorney general's decision on whether they could impose an audit. The ** answer was no, and the issue went dormant until last year.
The school board last year again agreed to an audit, as long as there was mutual agreement with commissioners over the scope, definition and other factors, and as long as the commissioners would pay for it.
After several months, the two boards have agreed to the terms.
But Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy again raised the ire of school board members this month by asking Carroll's legislative delegation to sponsor a bill giving counties the right to audit schools.
"There's nothing malicious about my decision to have something written into the books," Mr. Lippy said. "We have to have that for future boards of education and boards of commissioners. I would like to get it established just because of the magnitude of money involved."
School board members have maintained that they are elected to monitor the schools, and that the commissioners already have final financial control.
The Board of Education takes up about 53 percent of the county budget. Commissioners already have final say over the bottom line in the budget.
Once the budget is set, transfers of money between categories, such as from salaries to maintenance, must be approved by the commissioners. Transfers within categories are approved by the board, but always reported to commissioners on a monthly basis.