South Carolina is now just one school district away from achieving 100 percent compliance with a legislative proviso that requires all districts to post their check registers online.
Lexington School District 1 recently converted to a new computer system and within the past few weeks began posting its expenditures online, according to spokeswoman Mary Beth Hill.
That leaves Richland 2 as the lone district that hasn’t complied with the transparency initiative. However, the Richland 2 school board announced late last month that after more than a year of intransigence, it had decided to post its district expenditures.
Putting registers online is seen as an inexpensive and effective way to improve school district accountability. Check registers enable taxpayers to review monthly school district expenditures in detail, and once a register is online taxpayers no longer have to wait for information or pay for records.
The S.C. Legislature passed the proviso two years ago, requiring all school districts to post the spending details of their budgets online by the end of the 2009-10 school year.
Richland 2 board members had repeatedly declined to comply with the legislation, insisting that it would not do so until it was reimbursed by the S.C. Comptroller General’s Office for the costs involved. That, despite the fact that no other school district had been reimbursed.
In June, Richland 2 said it would continue to wait for financial assistance from the S.C. Comptroller General’s Office in order to put its check registers online, quoting an initial one-time set-up cost of $2,650 and annual recurring expenses of $2,030.
At the same time, the district’s budget for the 2011-12 year showed hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses for teachers who managed not to miss a day of work during the school year, according to an earlier story reported by The Nerve.
However, during a late August Richland 2 board meeting, members learned that the costs for posting online had diminished because of automated changes in processing purchasing card statements. The district reported that the expense involved with posting registers online had dropped to $2,000 in initial setup costs and $1,000 annually, according to a report in The State.
For Lexington 2, the delay was related to the need to convert to a new computer system, Hill said.
“We knew this was something we wanted to do, but we had old software from 1986 and it took a little longer than we wanted to get the new software installed,” she said.
Lexington 2 hasn’t had to hire any new employees to post the check registers, instead relying on computer programmers already on staff, Hill said.
To date, the district has gotten no feedback from parents or citizens regarding the posting of check registers, she said.
“It’s been pretty quiet,” she said. “We thought we’d get questions because it’s new, but the only real question was when it would be ready to go.”
As matter of background, both Lexington 1 and Richland 2 rank among the largest school districts in South Carolina.
As of the end of the 2010-11 school year, Lexington 1 had a little more than 22,000 students and approximately 1,700 teachers while Richland 2 had approximately 26,000 students and around 1,800 teachers.
Reach Dietrich at (803) 779-5022 ext. 110, or firstname.lastname@example.org.