Release culminates year-long effort to demonstrate joint commitment to transparency
The certified public accounting and business advisory firm SB & Company announced the results of their audit of the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS). The release of the audit culminates over a year of efforts that began with the unanimous vote to pass Howard County Executive Calvin Ball’s legislation calling for a state-led audit of HCPSS in July 2019.
“Howard County has a well-deserved reputation for great schools and I want to ensure we are investing in creating the best environment for teaching and learning for all of our students and educators,” said Ball. “I proposed a performance audit of our school system, conducted independently by the Maryland State Department of Education, to provide a full picture of our expenditures and help inform the best financial path forward. Today, I am thankful to the State for conducting this audit and providing the guidance needed to improve transparency and refine our fiscal practices in the future.”
The audit process was an important opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to even more accountability and transparency for our schools, strengthen support for all students and educators, and improve efficiencies. The audit focused on four key areas, established through cooperation and dialogue with HCPSS:
- Health and Dental Fund
- Budgeting and Actual Expenditure Variance
- Personnel Cost Development
The scope of this audit was confirmed with the engagement, collaboration and cooperation of the Board of Education, Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano and HCPSS staff.
“Since becoming Superintendent of Howard County schools, I have worked to shine a light on the financial issues of the district, making tough decisions to improve our transparency and accountability,” said Michael J. Martirano, HCPSS Superintendent. “Audits are a vital part of this and essential for public trust and confidence. The state audit team’s work on the health fund deficit reinforce the need to follow the plan that County Executive Ball and I have put forward to eliminate the deficit and avoid future adverse audit opinions. I am also pleased that the auditors found no discrepancies with our procurement practices and highlighted that we follow best practices in budgeting for personnel.”
The audit affirmed several actions and improvements made by the County and HCPSS over the past several years. Those actions and improvements include the recent development of a multi-year plan to pay down the Health and Dental Fund deficit, improvements to procurement practices and the use of best practices for budgeting of salaries and wages by HCPSS.
“I want to thank the County Executive and County Council for their partnership in ensuring public faith in the financial management of the Howard County Public School System. The Board of Education, working with the Superintendent and staff, has made very difficult, but significant efforts to manage taxpayer dollars while delivering high quality instruction and supports to our students and staff,” said Mavis Ellis, HCPSS Board of Education Chair. “With increased focus on staffing and new processes, the Superintendent has further strengthened the financial management, oversight and budgeting for the school system, including clearly demonstrating how our spending supports the school system’s Strategic Call to Action: Learning and Leading with Equity.”
Moving forward, the Office of the County Executive, the Howard County Council, the Board of Education and HCPSS will continue to find the best path forward for all students and the community. A full report documenting the findings of the audit can be found here.