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Preliminary audit of central office reveals weaknesses

ALBANY -- After auditing the Dougherty County School System's Child Nutrition Program last month, Education Planners of Marietta provided a preliminary analysis of the Central Office support work processes at the school board meeting Wednesday afternoon at Dougherty Comprehensive High School.

Education Planners CEO James Wilson presented the audit to the board, along with senior vice president Mike Russell. The audit looked at 105 positions, which cost $8.1 million in allocated cost to the system. General administrative processing/activities constitute the largest allocated cost and full-time employees with $1.8 million allocated cost and 24.4 full-time employees.

Technology, manual intensity and training were the three highest perceived areas in which total potential work process inefficiency dollars were being spent, based on a cost driver analysis. Technology had the largest inefficiency dollars with about $150,000, followed by about $120,000 in manual intensity and about $80,000 in training.

The 16-page preliminary audit also found that too many central office staff areas process payroll and handle purchasing.

"We suggest consolidation, reviewing salaries and policy changes that would help (build efficiency)," Wilson said to conclude his presentation. "Many staff members need more staff training (for new technology). Many school systems are going paperless, but (the staff) must have training to work with the technology."

Wilson then gave an example of how fast technology is changing and how people of different generations handle the advancements. He said he likes using e-mail, but many people prefer to send text messages instead.

"I don't know how to text," Wilson said. "Mike (Russell) had 1,200 texts last month and his son had 9,000."

Wilson also cautioned the school board to continue to be watchful of three key areas in the school system: finance, personnel and instruction.

"If you're not paying attention to those, you will have longer board meetings," Wilson said.

At the conclusion of Wilson's presentation, board member Emily Jean McAfee asked Wilson what was his next step. Wilson said he plans to deliver the final report of the personnel audit in January. After the meeting, Wilson said the audit took three-four months to perform at a cost of $3,000 per month.

"The board won't be making a decision (on the report)," Board Chairman David Maschke said. "It's just to see where we are."

Also at the meeting, the board voted 5-2 against a resolution for tax relief for homeowners. Maschke and at-large board member Anita Williams-Brown voted for the resolution, which would've rolled back the millage rate specifically for homeowners in the future when the state is unable to fund the Homestead Exemption.

If the board had passed the resolution, it would've had to gain General Assembly support since only the General Assembly can roll back the millage rate for a specific group. Starting this month, Dougherty County homeowners are being asked to pay at least $300 to offset Gov. Sonny Perdue decision to no longer pay for the exemption.

A lively discussion about the bill began in the board's pre-meeting.

"This only applies because the grant isn't there," Maschke said. "We want to offset the grant for every homeowner that wasn't funded by the state."

Board member the Rev. James Bush called the resolution a "sweetheart deal" for homeowners.

"There's lots of exemptions, like farming equipment," Dougherty County School System Attorney Tommy Coleman said to Bush.

"This only goes if there's money there," Maschke said soon after. "No one wants to take money out of the classroom. It's another tool in the tool bag for us to pull out if we need it. That's all it is."

Once the board meeting started and the item was to be voted on, Bush voiced his opinion quickly about the resolution.

"I vote that we don't adopt this," he said. McAfee seconded his motion.

After the meeting, Bush explained his reason for voting against the resolution.

"We've cut the budget already $7.5 million and we don't hold the future," said Bush, who was sporting a blue tie with a picture of President Obama. "Atlanta could tell us to cut tomorrow. We had to cut 50 percent from transportation (recently). The timing is everything. We've been very fortunate to not have to have staff layoffs."

Maschke -- who came up with the resolution idea in August -- was frustrated by the vote.

"I've very disappointed because I think the board failed to understand the resolution would afford the board the ability to provide tax relief to homeowners when savings can be found in the school system," he said. "We're not talking about cutting personnel. We're talking about cutting operating expenses and other savings such as energy costs, which, in turn, could be returned to taxpayers."

The board voted 7-0 to support three other items at the meeting, though. The board approved MetroServices for the bid award of $49,500 for the Data Recovery Center at Isabella Complex.

The board also voted unanimously to purchase the Softdoc Employee Self Service Software for the human resources department. The software will cost $39,999 the first year and $59,995 over a five-year period, but could save $151,809.62 in the same time span, according the research done by DCSS Human Resources Director Tracy S. Williams.

The board also voted to approve Invest-N-You to be the financial adviser on the supplemental retirement plans for DCSS staff. Dougherty County staff members will pay $10,000, spread out among employees, through their staff investment plans.

The first three days of the week have been filled with meetings for school board members. Williams-Brown, Maschke and Michael Windom each attended four of the five meetings in three days. Williams-Brown went to three meetings Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Williams-Brown attended the Instructional Services Accountability Committee, the Finance Committee and the board meeting. On Tuesday, board members could have attended the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce/school board meeting and on Monday they may have attended the

Building & Grounds Committee meeting.