Use of school cars rare among area officials

August 23, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Members of Tri-State area school boards rarely use board-owned vehicles or even claim mileage reimbursements for using their own vehicles for board-related trips, according to a poll conducted by the Herald-Mail.

Of six regional school districts surveyed, only the Washington County Board of Education had a board member who extensively used a board vehicle for school-related business - Andrew R. Humphreys.

Records showed Humphreys used a board car on 49 days between January and May, a school official said.

Humphreys has said he used school board cars for board business because his personal car was not always available.

Washington County's school board has a fleet of 12 cars and one van that can be used by any school board employee for school-related business.

According to board policy, "board owned vehicles are to be used by staff for the purpose of attending meetings, conferences, visiting schools or any other school related business purposes."


The guidelines say "only those authorized by a designated school official" are allowed to drive one of the fleet vehicles. County schools' Director of Transportation Chris Carter said, however, that employees check out cars on their own without signed authorization from anyone.

Carter said employees don't have to say where they're going, and usually don't. They reserve cars by signing their name beside the appropriate date in a ledger. When they bring the car back, they turn in the keys and check a box on the ledger indicating it has been returned.

Few vehicles used

While some Tri-State school boards have a car or vans available for school board members to use for board-related trips, many don't use them, officials said.

Waynesboro (Pa.) Area School District Superintendent Robert Mesaros said he doesn't recall any of the school board's nine members ever using the board's station wagon to attend conferences and workshops or asking for mileage reimbursements for such trips.

If one of them did use the station wagon to attend a conference, an administrator usually goes along, Mesaros said. The destination and mileage would have to be reported.

Vans are available for larger groups attending workshops and conferences, he said.

Chambersburg (Pa.) Area School District board members have used the district's vans to travel to the annual Pennsylvania School Board Association Conference, said Superintendent Edwin Sponseller.

It's cheaper for them to go in a van together to the conference, which has been held in recent years in Hershey and Pittsburgh, than to reimburse them for mileage, Sponseller said.

While board members can be reimbursed 28 cents per mile for school board-related trips, most of the nine members never claim the reimbursement, he said.

Car pools

If school board members in Berkeley County, W.Va., want to use a board car to attend a conference they have to make arrangements with the superintendent, said spokeswoman Mary Jo Brown.

When they go to an annual conference in Charleston, W.Va., they car pool in their own vehicles, Brown said.

Brown said she wasn't aware of any board members ever using a board vehicle or asking for mileage reimbursements, to which they are entitled.

"We really do have a board that utilizes their own vehicles when necessary," Brown said.

The Jefferson County (W.Va.) Board of Education does not have a car for board members to use, said spokeswoman Liz Thompson.

They can be reimbursed for mileage for board-related conferences and meetings, Thompson said.

Last fiscal year mileage reimbursements for four of five board members ranged from $89 for Paul R. Manzuk to $892 for Doris M. Cline, she said. The fifth board member, Peter Morgens, just joined the board, she said.

The mileage was reimbursed for trips to schools, to Charleston for state conferences and for Cline's meetings in Martinsburg, where she serves on a vocational committee, Thompson said.

Board-owned vans are used by groups of teachers and employees to attend conferences rather than reimburse them individually for mileage, Thompson said.

The director of support services and facilities and the supervisor of transportation have board vehicles they take home since they test the roads for weather-related closings, she said.

Jean Smith, president of the Frederick County Board of Education, said she travels about 8,000 miles a year in her own car on board business.

The $2,500 annual stipend each member receives doesn't cover her travel expenses, Smith said.

Board members don't get mileage reimbursements for traveling within the county, which accounts for most of her mileage, Smith said. Since she lives in Mount Airy, Md., in an eastern corner of Frederick County, many trips to schools or graduations are 35 or 45 miles from her home, she said.

Some board members don't claim mileage reimbursements for the out-of-county board-related trips they take, said Judith Ricketts, the board's executive assistant. Board members aren't allowed to use board vehicles, she said.

'Very conservative'

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