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School board calls for stricter control of expenses

December 24, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

The Washington County Board of Education agreed to let one of its members attend an out-of-town conference with the understanding that stricter control of board member expenses is coming.

"I think we need to get a grip on this because we're spending a lot of money," board member Doris J. Nipps said.

Board member Andrew R. Humphreys had planned to attend a Federal Relations Network meeting in Washington, D.C., Jan. 31-Feb. 2.

The purpose of the meeting is to bring together members of Congress with school board members to talk about education.

Board President Edwin Hayes asked board members Tuesday how they felt about the $700 expense.

"Ultimately it's the question, 'Is it going to benefit us?'" Hayes said.

Humphreys said personal contact with lawmakers such as Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md., has been invaluable.

Sarbanes has told him the letters he writes have more meaning and has helped him keep up on federal education issues, he said.

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Hayes said Washington County will already have two representatives at the meeting.

B. Marie Byers is going. Her expenses are being paid by the National School Board Association, for which she is a regional director.

A school board member from Carroll County, Md., will be representing the interests of the 6th Congressional District, which includes Washington County.

Hayes suggested paying the $400 registration fee but not the hotel bill.

"I think you're nitpicking," Byers said.

Board members agreed to pay the bill, but will be watching individual board members' expenses.

Hayes suggested an expense cap for each board member.

If a member wanted to exceed that figure, it would be up for discussion by the board, he said.

The board's expense budget has more than tripled in the past three years from $3,439 in 1996 to $11,104 this past year. Humphreys had the highest single expenses of $5,144.

The board has had to supplement its own expense budget in the past, Nipps said.

"It does not look good," she said.

Now that the size of the board has increased from five to seven members, the board needs to increase accountability, Hayes said.

"This isn't meant to penalize anyone," Hayes said.

Board member J. Herbert Hardin said board members should pick up some of their own expenses.

"I don't know any teacher that doesn't contribute some of their own salary to buy things for the classroom," Hardin said.

Byers said that isn't reasonable because board members all come from different economic backgrounds.

She said such conferences help keep board members informed of the latest educational issues.

"I'm going to be frank. Some of you are on the outside looking in," Byers said.

Hayes has assigned someone to create a list of educational conferences for the year to help board members prioritize their expenses, Hayes said.

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