Fox C-6 Watchdogs: New Bill Payments Report to Debut in May 2014 Board Packet

Fox C-6 Watchdogs: New Bill Payments Report to Debut in May 2014 Board Packet

Wouldn't it be great if our school district could be this open?  

New Bill Payments Report to Debut in May 2014 Board Packet

I received an email from Fox C-6 Assistant Superintendent Dr. Lorenzo Rizzi on Wednesday April 14, 2014 in response to my Public Comments about the Bill Payments and Credit Card Statements I made at the April 2014 school board meeting. I also commented about the Bill Payments and Credit Card Statements at the at the February and March 2014 school board meetings as well.

Dr. Rizzi's email stated:
"I am writing to inform that beginning with the BOE May meeting, the payment of bills will show more detail which includes credit card purchases. These will be included in the board packets and posted on the website each month. I have scanned an example for your viewing."
So, starting in May 2014, you will be able to download school board meeting packets and review the bill payments for the month in the new format. I responded to Dr. Rizzi and thanked him for the change. Hopefully, the district will update ALL of this school year's board packets to the new Bill Payments Report format on the district website. It will be very easy for the district to rerun the reports using the new format and replace the pages in the board packets. The district already updates the board packets on the district website each month a few days after the school board meeting to include the Bill Payments Report that was provided in the "Late Materials" just prior to the school board meeting. It should only take a few hours to replace the Bill Payments reports in the board packets for the entire year.

The updated report will be very similar to the old report that had been in use for years before the district switched to the Tyler Systems software last July. The new report format includes two new columns of data. There will be a TRANSACTION DESCRIPTION column and an ACCOUNT DESCRIPTION column for the the fund account.

Each month you can download the public portion of the school board meeting packets from the district's website. The board packets contain the board meeting minutes, letters to the district, bill payments report, staff separation and new hires reports and other documents that are provided to our school board members each month a week prior to the next school board meeting. School board meetings are held on the 3rd Tuesday of the month each month (other than July when there is no meeting). So, you can look for the documents online a week before the next board meeting.

The school board meeting packets contain the Bill Payments Report that our school board members review prior to approving the payments each month. Not all of the Bill Payments are included in the board meeting packets prior to the board meeting. There is usually another Bill Payments Report included in their "Late Materials" which is provided to them just prior to the board meeting. The payments in the Late Materials can be anywhere from $1.5 Million to $4 Million dollars or more. The April 15, 2014 school board meeting Late Materials contained an additional $1,582,835.19 in payments for the board to approve. Having descriptions in the bill payments report will help our board members and the public.

You can download Fox C-6 Board Meeting Packets from the district website using the link below. Currently only the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school year board packets are on the district website.

It's taken a while to convince our school district to put the payment descriptions back onto the Bill Payments report. Last fall I spoke to Assistant Superintendent Mark McCutchen at the Arnold Days parade about the missing descriptions. Since Mr. McCutchen is in charge of finance, I asked him if he could add the payment descriptions back onto the bill payments report because the public has no idea what the purchases were for without a description.

The public is certainly going to ask questions when they see a payment for $24,723 that was paid to The Bridal Shoppe and there's nothing describing what the purchase was for. The majority of people have quite a puzzled reaction when they find out that the district spent $24,723 at The Bridal Shoppe. Had there been a description column on the bill payments report documenting that the payment was for choir robes, then maybe there would have been fewer questions regarding the payment.

It's good to know that our school board is beginning to see the need to be more transparent. It's a very important step towards rebuilding the public's trust of our school board and school district leadership. Prior school board decisions and lack of communication with the public have caused a great deal of distrust in the community. It will take time to restore that trust. Superintendent Critchlow has made it quite clear by her responses that transparency isn't as important to her as it is to the community.

And, attempts to block the public from speaking with the school board without first speaking to a school district administrator regarding school board decisions also undermines the public's trust and it does not follow school board policy.

It's important that our administrators and school board members read and understand our school board Policies and Regulations and that they follow them as well. They clearly document the roles of our school board and our Superintendent. They were written and adopted to be the rules for governing our school district.

Per our school board policies, 
"As a member of the school Board, I shall: Accept my policy-making responsibilities and require the Superintendent to administer the school in accordance with those policies."
You can read more from Fox's school board policies about School Board Member Qualifications, their Role, Oath, Code of Ethics and more in the document below that contains just those sections from the Fox C-6 School District's board policies and regulations.


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