So the Huntsville City Schools passed its 2012 budget on September 8. Geekpalaver reports there was one question from the public: “Could I get a copy of the final budget?”. How, exactly, the public is supposed to ask questions or comment intelligently on documents before they can read them remains a mystery.
Totally worthless other than as an exercise in cultivating indignation is reviewing the Huntsville City Schools’ check registers posted on-line. Worthless because the monies have been spent. Intriguing, nonetheless.
Here are some things that interested me, looking back from January to July of 2011.
Shop for Office Supplies — at the Hilton Garden Inn????
Get your Print Job Done — at the Country Club????
I don’t know about you, but Wal-mart or Staples is where I shop for office supplies. It never would occur to me that I might be able to get a better deal at the Hilton. But that’s where the HCS spent $2,176.58 on office supplies, according to page 10 of the May check register.
After shopping at the Hilton, I might buzz over to check out what’s on offer at the Huntsville Country Club, where the HCS spent $3551.42 on non-instructional supplies, printing and binding in April (p. 14).
Got to Pay Jennie’s Dues
This may be totally legit. If so, it still raises interesting questions. The HCS cut Board member Jennie Robinson a check for $655 for “other dues and fees” in January 2011 (p. 17). None of the other four Board members received reimbursement for “dues and fees.”
I can think of two reasons for this. One is that JR is a star Board member, belonging to all the right Board professional organizations, and the other four are all slackers. Very possibly true.
Two is that the “fees and dues” JR got reimbursed for are not directly relevant to her service on the Board, and that is why the other four weren’t similarly cut checks for $655 each.
If these fees are for organizations directly relevant to her service on the Board, good for her. But not all professional groups would fit that criteria. For example, let’s say an electrical engineer were elected to the Board. He shouldn’t expect his IEEE dues to be paid, because membership in the IEEE isn’t relevant to serving on the Board.
Of course, there is no point in simply asking her at the next Board meeting, since Board members don’t answer questions from the public.
Q: How Many Consultants Does It Take to Screw in the Proverbial Lightbulb?
A: As Many as You Are Willing to Pay
First, remember that $70,000 so-called Demographer’s Report? The utterly worthless insult to the Huntsville taxpayers? It really cost $70,656.50. In March, a check was cut to Steve Salmon’s Gude Management Group for $37,669.76, followed by one for $32,986.74 in April. And remember in June the Board voted to pay Salmon’s boss at Education Planners, James Wilson, $3000 to attend the community meetings in place of the pseudo-demographer? Turns out that Wilson was really paid $4,692.60, funneled through Gude. Total amount blown on that fiasco: $75,349.10.
A modest proposal: Until the HCS is in the black, no more consultants.
- No consultants from California to play party games with the superintendent and Board (“During a more light-hearted exercise, each participant at the retreat had to anonymously write down a secret detail about their lives and the others had to guess which participant the secret was about.”). When the August check register appears, we’ll find out how much that day in the (Burritt) park cost.
- No consultants from Georgia to cut and paste freely available documents together and call it a study.
- If the five Board members can’t handle their responsibilities without having their hands held, then they should resign.
Well, that’s enough for today’s exercise in futility. Bounce on over to the HCS Finance Report and find your own favorites.