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Maryland Politics
Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 11/30/2011

Montgomery report examines council, schools kerfuffle

After Montgomery school officials found a $14.5 million surplus this year, county county council members fumed, saying that the school system had hidden the extra money during budget negotiations.

But a county report issued Tuesday, while concluding that school officials could have been more forthcoming, found no evidence that they deliberately concealed the surplus.

School officials disclosed the surplus in June after the Montgomery County Council cut the funding the schools receive to pay for employee social security, retirement and health benefits.

County officials said the schools system wasn’t forthright with its finances and that the employee benefits fund might even be a slush fund. Officials asked the inspector general and the Office of Legislative Oversight to investigate school finances.

The legislative oversight office released its report on Tuesday. Inspector General Edward Blansitt has said he is still working on his report, a broader look at school financial reporting.

The legislative oversight report determined the cause for the surplus was not the creation of a slush fund or budgeting improprieties but employees using less health insurance than what the schools had budgeted for.

According to the report, schools officials knew about the surplus in February or March — not at the end of budget negotiations in June. Council staff has recommended that legislators urge schools officials to provide more real-time data on its finances.

Larry A. Bowers, chief operating officer for MCPS, said in a letter response to the report that he agrees with the report’s recommendations.

Council President Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring), a county official who butted heads with schools officials shortly after the surplus was revealed, said in a statements that she hopes school officials and legislators can “strike the right balance moving forward.”

By  |  11:30 AM ET, 11/30/2011

 
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