Wicomico County School Officials Explain Audit Findings - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Wicomico County School Officials Explain Audit Findings

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SALISBURY, Md.-A state audit is questioning the financial management of Wicomico County Schools. 

The audit is something that happens every six years in each school districts across Maryland.

On Friday, Superintendent Dr. John Fredericksen refused to speak on camera with WBOC, but did respond in writing to the issues raised in the audit.

Spokesperson Tracy Sahler said that state auditors had been at the Board of Education for eleven months taking a close look at how the district's $180 million budget is spent.

One red flag raised were 250 gift card purchases totaling $27,000. Auditors noted that gift cards are prohibited by state policy.

Fredericksen responded by saying:

"The gift cards are primarily for incentives for good attendance, achievement, or work activities, paid out of grant funds. All gift cards are tied out to the people who were supposed to get them."

It's the type of incentive that Paula Hill whose daughter attends Wicomico High School, said she's ok with

"You need to award that child, so that it keeps their spirit up," Hill said,  "it keeps them going and they work even harder."

The audit says that the school system could be more cost effective when it comes to spending on bus contractors. That means the school system will pay a total of $3.2 million extra to the contractors over a 15-year period.     

Fredericksen wrote:

"The bus contractors calculations are not in error. We pay contractors a rate that will secure for us the services we need at a fair price. 

In fact, this year, we had five contracts not bid on because the prices were too low, forcing us to buy our own buses, thus hybridizing our system."

The audit also shows there were 25 salary increases which turned out to be more than they should have been at a cost of $69,000 to taxpayers.

Fredericksen went to explain: 

"The salaries paid above contract generally deal with situations where the school system gets none or unacceptable candidates for a job posting." 

He went on to say, "in these instances, we repost at a higher salary to attempt to attract an acceptable candidate."

Darlene Preston who also has a daughter at Wi-Hi said that salary increases should be given if and when an educator deserves it. But added that she's concerned about how the school system does not spend their budget on other things she considers a priority.

"Years ago they took out the driver's education and I don't know if it was too much of a cost to the school system," Preston said, "I'm not saying they are mis-managing their budget." 

Frederickesen told WBOC the district will take a closer look at the findings and discuss what changes need to be made. As far as a formal appeal goes, Fredericksen said that action won't be necessary.
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