Monday, May 14, 2012

TPS should do performance audit before asking for more money

In a special meeting this morning, the Toledo Public School board is probably going to vote to put a new property tax levy on the ballot this November. UPDATE: The vote in favor of the request was unanimous and we'll see the issue on the November ballot.

They estimate that they need 8.4 mills to address predicted shortages, but will probably approve their committee's recommendation for 6.9 mills which will cover them through their 2015 fiscal year.

A 6.9 mill levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $211 per year. In 2010, the TPS 7.8 mill levy request was handily defeated by over 10,000 votes, losing 58% to 42%.

Before they ask for more money, TPS needs to do a performance audit. Superintendent Jerome Pecko floated the idea following the defeat of their 2010 levy, but it was never done, as far as I can tell.

In a performance audit, experts from the State Auditor will come in and "objectively and systematically evaluate programs, functions and activities to help governments ensure the right things are done in the best way, maximum value is achieved for each dollar spent, and government makes the best use of the scarce resources available." The State Auditor website says that over $1 billion in savings have been identified through performance audits of various public entities.

What is Performance Auditing?

As the Auditor website explains:

Performance auditing, a non-recurring examination of the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of government, program, and functions, differs from the other audits that Ohio governments undergo. It is independent and flexible in its choice of subjects and methods.

The principles guiding performance auditing are often called the “three Es”.

•The principle of ECONOMY is keeping the cost low.
•The principle of EFFICIENCY is getting the most out of available resources.
•The principle of EFFECTIVENESS is meeting the objectives set.

A performance audit can analyze the operations of an entire entity or a particular department; it can examine a function or service that cuts across the operation or a single issue that involves several organizations.

AOS performance audits cover a range of subject areas. Common audit objectives include those evaluating economy and efficiency, program achievement and design, service levels and priorities for resource allocation, and operational costs and workloads. The audit may identify cost savings, duplicative or underused services that could be reduced or eliminated, and gaps and overlaps in services.

TPS should seek a comprehensive, complete system audit with the goal of identifying ways to reduce costs before they tell us that they have no other alternative but to raise taxes.

Performance audits are not free, but many entities are eligible for financial assistance through the LEAP Fund. Additionally, they can take 4-6 months because of the nature of the examination. However, a performance audit may show enough savings that TPS won't need a 6.9 mill levy - or any levy at all (we can hope).

TPS should want a performance audit before asking for more money. It won't just identify ways to save money, it will show options for improving the effectiveness of their educational goals - after all, it is 'for the children.'

It will also give them an unbiased and objective justification for any funds they may need to seek. Their levy will have a much higher chance of passage if they can first show the voters that they've sought and implemented cost savings and efficiency improvements.

Call your TPS board members and insist that they seek a performance audit before asking an already tapped-out community for more money.

Phone number for all board members 419-671-8200.

TPS does not provide email addresses for its board members though it has a form on their website where you can fill in the blanks and send your message to all or any of the board members. That form is here.

Here are the board members:

Lisa Sobecki, President
Brenda Hill, Vice President
Dr. Cecelia Adams, Member
Larry Sykes, Member
Bob Vasquez, Member

Also, call other elected officials and organizations (chambers of commerce, unions, political parties, etc...) who endorse and ask them to insist on an audit performance first. Public pressure is the only way we'll be able to accomplish what the board should have done already.

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