County audit of school system stalled

County auditor: "I've asked to be treated like every other audit."

The county's financial audit of the Howard County Public School System is stalled because the school system is limiting space for staff and access to employees and systems necessary for gathering information, according to the county's auditor.

Howard County Council Chairman Calvin Ball threatened possible legal action against the school system in early September to push officials to comply with the auditor's requests.

Last week, Ball said the school system provided requested documents. But on Monday, the county's auditor, Craig Glendenning, told the council the school system said there "will be no space available to do an audit." The auditor's office has not received a response to its requests for access from the school system since Sept. 15.

The school system, in return, requested information about the auditor's previous audits, accounting permits and other documentation.

"The only work we're doing right now is complying with their public information act request," Glendenning said, adding the auditing office has completed the planning phase of its audit based on documents received from the school system.

The school system is audited by multiple entities, including an annual audit by the school board's external auditor.

Glendenning told the council other auditorshave been granted space on-site and access to staff and systems.

"I've asked to be treated like every other audit of the school system," Glendenning said.

On Tuesday, schools spokesman John White said they expect to be able to accomodate the county auditors after the external auditors leave at the end of the week.

The council will consider the proposal to initiate legal action against the school system next month. The audit is intended to guide the work of a school oversight committee created by the Council.

Development halt

A nine-month halt on commercial and residential development in the Ellicott City area is unlikely to stop development of many units, according to Jeff Bronow, the Department of Planning and Zoning's chief of research.

Councilman Jon Weinstein proposed the halt following the July 30 flood in the historic district.

Bronow said many projects in progress are already on hold because of a school's test that temporarily delays projects if area schools reach a certain capacity and cannot accommodate growth.

Roughly five percent of land is designated for commercial use in the Tiber watershed, an area that surrounds parts of Ellicott City, and about 21 percent of the total area in the watershed, is dedicated to parks, easements and open space, according to a county map of land use.

The county is conducting studies of water flow and hydrology to determine how to manage stormwater flows in the future, said Mark DeLuca, chief of the county's Bureau of Environmental Services.

Until studies are complete, the county can only speculate on how to manage future stormwater projects, DeLuca said.

Older subdivisions have very little stormwater management controls compared with newer subdivisions, he said.

A federal disaster declaration, which releases federal funding for recovery and rebuilding in Ellicott City, will allow the county to pursue more expensive stormwater management, said Jim Irvin, director of the county's Department of Public Works.

But the funding process for flood mitigation is competitive, cautioned Jim Irvin, the director of the county's Department of Public Works.

This story has been updated.

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