Difficulty seen in passing bill on school audit


It won't be easy to pass legislation giving county commissioners the authority to audit school board management practices, Carroll legislators said yesterday.

But Carroll commissioners said they want to try anyway.

A Carroll bill asking for the same thing was defeated last year in the House Ways and Means Committee, in part because it could have been applied statewide.

"We can be persistent," Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said at the commissioners' annual meeting with local delegates at the County Office Building.

"It won't be an easy road," Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said.

The commissioners want the authority to conduct a performance audit of school board practices to find ways to save money.

The school board is receiving 53 percent of the county's $130 million operating budget this year.

After discussions over the past four years, the Board of Education has agreed to allow the county to audit its transportation, food service and personnel departments.

Officials will ask for bids from auditors in January.

Sen. Charles H. Smelser, D-Carroll, Frederick, Howard, asked thecommissioners why they continue to push for the bill.

"We want it on the books for future boards of education and future boards of commissioners," Mr. Lippy said.

"It would be nice and comfortable to have that authority on the books."

"Economics is the bottom line," Mrs. Gouge said. "We're not interfering with education.

"It's always deemed a political issue, and people are taking sides. It's simply a way of doing business."

Del. Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, said, "I've heard it's not going to be political, but you never get away from audits being political."

Mr. Dixon is the co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Budget and Audit.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell summed it up: "It's not politically smart for the Board of Education to resist. It's politically smart for the commissioners to pursue it."

Board of Education President Carolyn L. Scott, contacted by phone after the meeting, said the board is going along with an audit even though a 1989 attorney general's opinion said it wasn't required.

"We're not resisting the audit," she said. "How can we hide anything? We have a financial audit every year."

The schools are operating efficiently, Mrs. Scott said.

"We're getting good results for the amount of money we're spending," she said.

Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, said he has received calls from residents on the issue.

"The public wants the audit," he said.

Del. Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, said the legislation is likely to face opposition from educational lobbyists in Annapolis.

The delegation will take comments on the proposed performance audit bill and other legislation at a meeting from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Jan. 22 in Room 07 of the County Office Building.

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