DENTON, Texas – They say everything is a little bit bigger in Texas.
In previous stories, we reported on big spending in the Lubbock school district ($1,423,386.85 combined hotel and airline costs, $232,918.12 restaurant food); Austin ($1,344,289.35 on hotels, restaurants and airline fees); Ector County ($337,154.49 on hotels, $177,147.73 on restaurant food); Abilene ($276,985.78 on food and travel costs for student athletic teams); Midland ($263,585.88 on hotel, airline and rental car costs); Arlington ($187,989.66 on airline costs); and Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ($154,236.97 on hotel and restaurant expenses).
Our final entry our that list is the Denton, Texas school district, which had a grand total of $408,660.46 on the travel spending log it submitted through an open records request.
A lot of the entries on the Denton travel log were difficult to characterize because they were not specifically labeled. For instance, one entry simply said, “Mike Mattingly, asst. superintendent, $1,386.44.” Obviously, that doesn’t tell us how or why that money was spent.
But from the listings that were clear, we were able to discern that the district charged $194,696.26 at hotels between July 2016 and June 2017, in 987 transactions. Denton also recorded $67,004.72 in restaurant food purchases in 248 transactions and $61,051.98 in airline costs in 149 transactions.
A large percentage of the restaurant food appeared to be for students, mostly for high school sports teams. But it appears that the bulk of hotel costs for were school employees or officials.
A lot of Denton employees needed hotel rooms, and a lot of those were pretty pricey.
One entry said “hotel for Elizabeth Kelly” and came with a $1,129.05 price tag. Another said, “hotel for Wendy Zamerano” for $1,297.10. Another said “lodging for Noelle Hill” for $925.52. There were five listings under “hotel for Dr. Jaime Wilson,” totaling $2,328.
A lot of the hotel rooms were for professional conferences, like the TASBO Conference, which cost the Denton district $6,767.48.
Obviously, all those costs add up – and in Denton, they added up to a lot.