TEXAS - Trustees Say Error-Prone School Audit Needs Further Review

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Title: Trustees say error-prone school audit needs further review

(Last updated Friday, Mar 31, 2000)

By Lucy Hood Express-News Staff Writer

A multimillion-dollar glitch in calculating potential savings for the San Antonio School District calls for greater scrutiny of the state comptroller's audit but does not discredit the entire report, trustees in the state's seventh-largest school system said Friday.

The comptroller's office admits the mistake amounts to a $2 million difference in savings, based on figures it got from the school district. But the figures the SASD provided show the error could add up to $5.3 million.

School Board President Tom Lopez said district staff and trustees would have to take a closer look at the 678-page document.

"As a whole, I don't want to say it discredits the report," he said. "It is one item, but it does lend suspect to the other recommendations."

The report Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander released last week criticized the school board for a series of decisions blamed for the district's current financial crunch. The report made 154 recommendations, 27 of which included five-year cost-cutting measures totaling $25.2 million.

Almost half of the savings, or $13.2 million, would have been obtained by eliminating 79 custodial positions, according to the original report.

But MGT of America, the firm contracted to conduct the audit, acknowledged making a mistake in its calculations that inflated that figure by $2 million.

Rylander stood by the report, including the charge that the district has too many custodial workers.

"I don't think this finding in any way diminishes the impact of the report," she said. "We have 154 solid recommendations, including this one."

Figures provided by district officials, however, show the amount may be off by as much as $5.3 million.

"Now, I'm looking at these things and going, 'Hmmmm,'" Trustee Julian Treviqo said.

"We need to find out what went wrong, and on those items that have a significant impact, we need to ensure that the decimal points are there and the zeros are in the right place."

Asked if the report should be disregarded because of the mistake, he said, "absolutely not. That would be foolhardy."

He credited the report for telling the district to develop a long-range plan. Others involved in the district supported recommendations to provide additional training for principals on student discipline and calling on staffers to outline for the board how every fiscal decision will impact the budget.

The mistake made in calculating the savings to the district hinges on one figure  $28,500.

In a letter to the comptroller's office, MGT employee Edward Humble said Joe Tafolla, SASD director of plant services, gave him that number as the base salary for a custodian. The error occurred, Humble said, when he added 17 percent in benefits to the figure, which already included benefits.

But Tafolla said he never gave that figure to Humble. The average salary for head custodians, he said, is $26,642, and the average salary for nonsupervisory custodians is $19,790. Both numbers include benefits.

"I'm not trying to defend the consultant, but the consultant worked off the figures that Tafolla gave," Rylander saidRegardless, Rylander said, the premise of the recommendation still stands.

"They've got to tell you they are overstaffed," she said.



-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), April 01, 2000

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