School board member responds to criticism about transparency

Charlie Koenig - Posted on Apr 13, 2011 - 04:01 PM

Mathews County School Board vice chairman Jen Little, during Tuesday night’s meeting, took the opportunity to respond to criticism leveled against her and her fellow board members by a county supervisor who had earlier alleged a lack of fiscal transparency.

Little kept her remarks brief, expressing her disappointment with comments made by supervisor Janine Burns at the county board’s March 30 meeting, and referring everyone to a subsequent e-mail exchange between the two.

At the March 30 meeting, Burns said that she finds it difficult to understand the real needs of the schools because they provide requests for funds, but no information on actual expenses. At one point, Burns even suggested that the county should consider reverting to an appointed school board to ensure greater accountability.

In an e-mail to Burns, Little said that "all checks that are written for the Mathews County Public Schools and where the money goes is fully transparent. This information can easily be obtained by a visit to the school board office.

"I would like to request … that caution be taken prior to attacking the school board, especially if you are uncertain of the accuracy of the information you intend to provide," she wrote to Burns.

In her reply, Burns said, during the budget preparation cycle, supervisors receive prior-years’ expense data from almost every department receiving funds.

"The conspicuous exception is the schools which, by tradition, provide a history of prior-year requests for funds, but no information on expenses," Burns wrote. "In an economy in which every dollar counts, it is increasingly difficult for the board of supervisors to authorize the transfer of roughly half of all locally generated funds to the school system without actual-expense information."