BEYOND THE BUDGET BLUEPRINT: HOW TO REPORT ON SCHOOL FINANCE EWA’s 67th National Seminar Vanderbilt University, Nashville May 18, 2014 Tawnell D. Hobbs, The Dallas Morning News Get the data! • • • • • • Purchase orders Check logs Credit card information Paycheck information (salary database) Grants Budgets Make comparisons • Find the difference (sum, subtraction, percentage change, percentage) Know the difference between “approved budgets” and “actual budgets” • Budget amendments • Change orders The “budget amendment” The “change order” Was the promised product delivered? What’s in that report? Is it worth the $100,000 price tag? -- 306-page report -- Padded with school district charts and maps -- Five research studies from other groups; available on the web -- Printouts of two proposed Texas bills that never became law -- Contained basic knowledge: The magnet programs are popular Next steps: • Look at specs promised in request for proposal, or RFP • Look at contract (provides the details) • Check registers • Receipts (and background documentation) Dallas ISD spent millions on extras, analysis of check register shows By TAWNELL D. HOBBS and MATTHEW HAAG Staff Writers Published: 18 June 2011 11:39 PM Restaurant food and catered meals: $2.2 million. Hotel stays and room rentals: $2.3 million. Registration fees and travel costs: $3.8 million. Consultants and other outside help: $44 million. And there’s more. The Dallas Independent School District spent at least $57 million over four years — or one year’s average base pay for 1,086 teachers — on purchases such as pricey meals, costly trips, lucrative consulting contracts and overnight stays at hotels in the Dallas area and beyond. The Dallas Morning News analyzed the check register from the district’s main fund starting with purchases from August 2006, the month after DISD ended an oft abused employee credit card program, to December 2010. The review of more than 775,000 lines of purchases, receipts and documents provides a look at funds that are loosely tracked and spent with little oversight. Four-star hotels, conventions among Dallas ISD travel expenses By MATTHEW HAAG Staff Writer Published: 18 June 2011 11:21 PM From four-star hotel rooms high above Times Square to luxurious suites overlooking San Diego Bay, Dallas ISD employees have racked up large bills on trips to conferences, conventions and visits to other school districts. And in some cases, district records show no receipts. The Dallas school district spent at least $4.7 million on costs related to employee travel, Including money to cover expenses, airfare and hotel rooms, from August 2006 to December 2010. The bills range from a $2,495 registration fee for a DISD principal to attend a four-day conference at Harvard University to $500 airfares to Southern California. (Using Microsoft ACCESS to group business purchases) Some of the district's purchases include: More than $300,000 spent at Atlanta Bread Co. and about $86,000 at Chick-fil-A. Promotional items, such as mugs, wristbands, T-shirts and hats, that cost at least $1.7 million. Renting meeting space and catering meals from Aramark Events and Catering at Infomart, costing at least $488,000. Trustees to crack down on extras Board members vow to tackle expenses from legal services, pricey meals, room rentals TAWNELL D. HOBBS and MATTHEW HAAG Publication Date: June 21, 2011 Page: A01 Section: NEWS Zone: STATE Edition: 1 Dallas school trustees, facing major budget cuts for the upcoming school year, vowed Monday to find ways to reduce excessive spending. Trustees, responding to a Dallas Morning News report on Sunday that detailed questionable expenditures, said they plan to crack down on costs for legal services, pricey meals and room rentals. New board President Lew Blackburn said he's willing to go so far as to require staffers to raise money for their own food purchases. "I'm OK with not feeding the staff," he said. Blackburn said he plans to lay out his thoughts on spending during a speech on board priorities at Thursday's board meeting. He predicted new procedures would be in place by January. Credit Card purchases Data: School district credit card purchases Findings: District card holders made questionable purchases with their cards. An iPod on Christmas Eve $399 Boxes from The Container Store $2,489 Gift cards from Toys "R" Us $3,100 Shopping with a DISD MasterCard Priceless Exclusive: A Dallas Morning News investigation found thousands of suspect purchases on district credit cards - and serious questions about whether anyone is watching how the tax dollars are spent KENT FISCHER, TAWNELL D. HOBBS and MOLLY MOTLEY Publication Date: July 2, 2006 First of two parts With little oversight, Dallas Independent School District employees swipe their district-issued credit cards hundreds of times a day, spending about $20 million a year on everything from office supplies and textbooks to meals and giveaway trinkets. About 1,200 cards are in circulation, and they keep the district running. With them, administrators and teachers can buy day-to-day supplies without the hassle of waiting on a district purchase order. But rarely does anyone check up on the card users, review their receipts or question what they've bought. They're spending on items like this: a $200 blanket and pillow set from The Land of Nod, $1,700 in electric scooters, $200 in moisturizer from Bath and Body Works, and a $24.95 charge to an online dating service, Americansingles.com. The Dallas Morning News examined school district credit card transactions over 27 months, from January 2004 through March 2006 - a $41.5 million snapshot of district spending. Those and other district records showed that only a fraction of purchase receipts are scrutinized, and thousands of purchases run afoul of DISD policy and state purchasing laws. Among the findings: Banned gift cards keep on giving Probably $35,000 spent after district prohibited their purchase TAWNELL D. HOBBS, KENT FISCHER and MOLLY MOTLEY Publication Date: July 3, 2006 Page: 2A Section: NEWS Zone: STATE Edition: FIRST Gift cards - as good as cash at most retailers - were a favorite purchase of DISD employees using district-issued credit cards. A Dallas Morning News review of thousands of Dallas Independent School District credit card transactions from January 2004 to March 2006, found $820,000 likely spent on gift cards. The News used the district's methodology to identify the purchases: those with even dollar amounts - $30, $250 or $1,000, for example - from stores that sell the cards. Transaction records show that employees often purchased dozens of gift cards at one time and sometimes made two or three similar gift card purchases within minutes of one another. An example: On March 12, 2004, an employee with DISD's Area 5 office made four purchases totaling $15,000 for gift cards at Wal-Mart and Target, using a district charge card. The employee no longer works for the district and could not be reached. The district provided no documentation showing what merchandise that money ultimately bought. A $250 gift card at Wal-Mart, for example, could be redeemed for anything the retail giant sells. DISD banned the purchase of gift cards using district credit cards last summer after an internal review showed that the spending was hard to trace. But even after the rule took effect, The News found $35,000 in purchases that appear to be gift cards. Sherri Brokaw, DISD's director of Financial Control and Card Services, said gift card purchases caused more work for employees. They were expected to keep receipts for gift card purchases and receipts for what was bought. "It's one more thing you had to have control of," Ms. Brokaw said. 86 disciplined for DISD credit card misuse Termination, probation among punishments for procurement abuses TAWNELL D. HOBBS Publication Date: August 23, 2007 Page: 12B Section: METRO Zone: EAST Edition: EAST More than 80 Dallas school employees investigated for misusing their district-issued credit cards have received some sort of discipline, ranging from termination to probation, according to an internal report obtained by The Dallas Morning News. The Dallas Independent School District named 93 individuals in May who faced disciplinary action or termination for violations involving their district credit cards. Eighty-six were disciplined, according to the report. A district spokesman said Wednesday that the disciplinary actions in the report may not be final. He added that employees can appeal recommendations for termination. He did not know the status of any appeals. Fifteen employees received letters of termination, including three who have resigned and two who kept their jobs but were demoted. More than half the employees received multiple punishments, such as a demotion and removal of any budgetary authority. The district reprimanded 55 people, put 48 on probation, demoted 10 and shortened contract lengths with possible nonrenewal for nine. "That action was taken as a result of the misuse," said DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander. "Some cases are obviously more severe than others." Woman gets year in DISD card scandal Prison sentence lower than expected because of aid to investigation MICHAEL GRABELL Publication Date: August 10, 2007 Page: 17B Section: METRO Zone: NORTH Edition: NORTH One of the biggest spenders in the Dallas Independent School District credit card scandal was sentenced to one year in federal prison Thursday after the government asked for a lower sentence because she had aided the FBI investigation. Gloria Orapello, a former secretary in the district's central office, pleaded guilty to felony theft for charging $100,000 in personal items on her district credit card. She had spent a total of about $450,000 on her card, about a quarter of it at an Air Force base store, according to a Dallas Morning News review of DISD credit card records. "I am truly sorry for my actions," she told Judge Jane Boyle. "I was very selfish and didn't realize what I was doing to the children." Before Ms. Orapello, 50, was sentenced, an FBI agent investigating the DISD credit card program testified that she had helped the FBI identify three to eight people who may face criminal charges, saving him 500 to 600 hours of work. Agent Steven Sepeda added that Ms. Orapello had forfeited $35,000 in electronics, jewelry, clothing and the proceeds from a garage sale as restitution to the district. She also led the district's internal investigators to $50,000 in other people's property that could be turned over in restitution, he said. DISD credit cards: 2nd user sentenced Ex-secretary who spent $64,000 on herself gets 18 months in prison KENT FISCHER Publication Date: September 25, 2007 Page: 1B Section: METRO Zone: STATE Edition: FIRST A former secretary with the Dallas Independent School District was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison Monday for using her district credit card to steal more than $64,000. Marsha Ollison, 43, must also make full restitution to the district and will be subject to three years' probation upon her release. Her attorney said Ms. Ollison has already repaid DISD $15,000. Before sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge Sam Lindsay revealed that two years before joining DISD, Ms. Ollison left the former Arthur Andersen accounting firm after officials there accused her of misusing her company credit card. "Arthur Andersen should have served as a wake-up call," Judge Lindsay said. "Apparently it did not. Less than two years later, we see the same conduct" at DISD. Ms. Ollison is the second DISD employee convicted of misusing district credit cards. Last month, another secretary, Gloria Orapello, was sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to make $100,000 in restitution. Ms. Ollison's attorney, Larry Jarrett, said she will appeal. So far, 86 employees have been disciplined by DISD for misusing their district credit cards. Punishments have ranged from termination to letters of reprimand. • Salary database (and stipends) More Dallas ISD employees making six-figure salaries By TAWNELL D. HOBBS Staff Writer Published: 25 November 2012 11:12 PM Budget cuts in Dallas ISD have resulted in the elimination of hundreds of positions across most salary levels. But those in the six-figure salary range have grown and are at a high this school year. Salaries in the district have been a source of contention for some community members who believe Superintendent Mike Miles is setting pay too high, mainly for people in his Cabinet, where salaries range from $180,000 to $220,000. Miles’ base salary is $300,000. A Dallas Morning News analysis found that DISD has 129 employees, not including pending hires, who make $100,000 or more. That’s up from 111 last school year and 121 the year prior. Salaries for those 129 workers add up to more than $16 million annually. Those figures are a big jump from 2008-09, when 79 employees had six-figure salaries. The steady increase came as the nation struggled through a stubborn recession and high unemployment. Meanwhile, DISD was rebounding from a financial debacle that resulted in hundreds of layoffs. Dallas ISD superintendent concedes he made mistakes in assembling administrative staff By MATTHEW HAAG and TAWNELL D. HOBBS Staff Writers Published: 20 December 2012 11:19 PM Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles conceded Thursday that he made mistakes in assembling his administrative staff, possibly set some salaries too high and will review the pay of high-level administrators. In an interview with The Dallas Morning News editorial board, a contrite Miles said that before becoming superintendent on July 1, he should have allowed competition for some executive positions, compared top salaries with similar districts and better explained his decisions. “I did a poor job,” Miles said, referring to salary comparisons and communication. Stipends Car stipends guzzling cash Exclusive: Some in DISD getting large allowances but traveling little TAWNELL D. HOBBS and KENT FISCHER Publication Date: November 13, 2005 Working on the Dallas school district's help desk typically doesn't involve travel; technicians answer the phone and solve computer problems. But the five help desk workers each get $1,185 a year in car allowances. The money automatically comes as part of their pay. All told, more than 2,300 DISD employees are getting car stipends this year, at a cost of nearly $3.7 million, according to a Dallas Morning News review of district records. In a year when DISD cut some elementary school counselors and gave teachers small raises while trying to close a $28 million budget deficit, the $3,684,798 for car allowances has escaped the ax. The allowances, mostly ranging from $694 to $4,051 a year, are meant to reimburse employees who use their cars for official business within the district. Yet the district requires no proof of how much these employees - including administrative assistants, accountants, supervisors and top managers - travel for their jobs. Who’s benefiting? (Car allowance cont’d.) “Deputy Superintendent Ron Peace, for example, is in charge of DISD's business services. His appointment book shows that he is out of the office three or four times a week. Over the last 90 days, he's driven an estimated 300 miles on district business, according to the addresses in his appointment book and a common Internet mileage estimator. Mr. Peace did not return phone calls, but Mr. Claxton, the district spokesman, said the calendar accurately reflects the deputy superintendent's travel during that period. Mr. Peace's annual allowance, $4,051, works out to almost $78 per week or $935 for 90 days. Compare that with the distance traveled to his recent appointments, and the district paid him $3.12 per mile over the last three months. In comparison, the city of Dallas caps taxicab rates at $1.60 per mile.” Who’s on the losing end? (Car allowance cont’d.) “On the flip side is orchestra teacher Emery Kochie, who is assigned to three elementary schools. Including mileage, wear and tear on his car and the cost of gas, he estimates he spends about $800 a year doing his job. Yet Mr. Kochie receives no car allowance.” District curbs travel allowances Employees had received millions in annual stipends TAWNELL D. HOBBS Publication Date: December 16, 2005 Dallas Superintendent Michael Hinojosa's proposal to cut car allowances for hundreds of employees, including his own, was approved by school trustees Thursday. The proposal came after The Dallas Morning News reported last month that the district spent nearly $3.7 million annually on car stipends for more than 2,300 employees, many of whom rarely travel on district business. Trustees approved reducing the number of employees receiving the stipends to 52 top executives at an annual cost of about $212,000. They also approved eliminating Dr. Hinojosa's $1,000 monthly car allowance, at the superintendent's recommendation. The change in Dr. Hinojosa's contract takes effect Jan. 1; the other changes begin Sept. 1. Employees who don't receive a car stipend, including Dr. Hinojosa, will receive the state comptroller's reimbursement rate for miles driven, now 48.5 cents a mile. Red flags… Credit card purchases for even amounts Understaffing in office overseeing purchases; unanswered questions Frequent change orders and/or budget amendments Big budget swings A decreasing reserve, or emergency, fund Back-to-back purchases to stay under the radar Tips… Don’t overload stories with numbers – think graphics! Tip… • Make useful comparisons The Dallas Independent School District spent at least $57 million over four years - or one year's average base pay for 1,086 teachers on purchases such as pricey meals, costly trips, lucrative consulting contracts and overnight stays at hotels in the Dallas area and beyond. Remember, behind every paper report…is a database Questions?