By Sally Absher
At last week’s mid-month Board of Education work session, Dr. McIntyre updated the board on the situation regarding KCS food services and accounts payable departments that led to the dismissal of one employee and investigations by law enforcement and the Tennessee Office of the Controller, and the audits that were requested by the school board for both of these areas.
He said that preparation for those audits are currently underway, and added, “I’ve asked Bob Thomas, our Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services, to look closely at our administrative functions and develop a Comprehensive Plan to ensure that appropriate controls are in place and to address they type of inappropriate actions that we’ve seen in some of the administrative functions over the past 18 months.
McIntyre said he received a draft of the Comprehensive Plan that afternoon, and indicated that one of the recommendations – canceling the six school system credit cards and moving to the county’s e-commerce card and travel card system – is complete.
He asked Thomas to highlight some of the other recommendations included in the plan, which is linked under Superintendent’s Report on the November 19 Agenda, available at knoxschools.org.
Thomas began by saying that they would be considering additional recommendations as the document evolves. He said there are two phases to the plan: accountability measures and personnel recommendations.
Two steps were taken immediately: the elimination of the six Sun Trust credit cards, and eight centrally administered Sam’s Club cards.
The school will be using e-commerce cards, which provide transparency with all transactions available for public review online.
Travel cards will be transparent as well. In addition, the KCS travel policy will be aligned with the county’s travel policy. The plan recommends three travel cards: for the superintendent, the board, and the human resources department for recruiting efforts. The cards will be set up to automatically provide exemptions from any taxes the school system is exempt from.
He said there would be annual training for all personnel involved. Additional accountability recommendations include:
• Develop key performance indicators/best practices for each department that falls under administrative services, developed in conjunction with the accountability department.
• Develop a fleet management policy for the board, and refining the policy governing fleet management for all Knox-County owned vehicles.
• Ensure that controls for Pilot Fuel Cards are adhered to consistently by all departments.
• Develop consistent policy regarding technology purchases, with tracking through the technology request system. This would include e-rate discount and capital construction technology purchases.
• Develop a capitalization policy, which was a recommendation of the PPU audit.
In the area of personnel recommendations, Thomas said the plan recommends transitioning the schools’ accounts payable functions to the county finance department. Presently there is some duplication, which may be leading to delays resulting in late fees and finance charges.
Additionally, the some of the school nutrition department accounts payable could be transitioned to the county. Some of the funds are federal (Title 1) money, but Thomas said “it would be good to try to transition as much of that as we can to the county.”
With the transition of the majority of the schools accounts payable to the county, Thomas said there will be some restructuring of the schools finance department, and repurposing of positions.
Recommended new positions include: Supervisor of School Activity Fund Accounting; School Business Manager to work with major contracts including copiers, buses, etc.; and Budget Execution Analyst to make sure expenditures are being tracked appropriately.
Thomas said these positions would be budget neutral with the transition of most accounts payable functions to the county. No mention was made of whether the county would need to hire additional staff to take on these added responsibilities.
Finally, Thomas recommends regularly scheduled meetings with department heads in administrative services areas to ensure the recommendations of the comprehensive plan are implemented and followed.
“In the last six years,” Thomas said, “the school system has experienced a 25% reduction in finance department personnel…while revenue has grown $60M, a 14% increase.”