UPPER MARLBORO, Md. – In December 2014, the Prince George’s Public School District in Maryland imposed a district-wide “selective” hiring freeze, and announced that all departments would be asked to limit discretionary spending, to deal with anticipated budget problems, according to the Washington Post.
This occurred as school district Chief Kevin Mitchell requested an increase of $53.5 million in revenue from the local county government, and an increase of $33.7 million from the state, to keep pace with costs, the Post reported.
If county and state officials were smart, they checked to see exactly how much “discretionary” spending had been occurring with district funds, and why it was necessary, before agreeing to fork over so much extra money.
That’s because, at least in fiscal year 2014-15, the school district spent a great deal on travel accommodations and outside food vendors. That could be a telltale sign of widespread waste.
In 2014-15, Prince George’s rang up 264 separate transactions for hotels and lodging, totaling $683,734.
At least five figures were spent at 10 different hotels, starting with a whopping $196,740 at the Comfort Inn and Conference Center (no location disclosed).
Big dollars were also dropped at the Metro Points Hotel ($130,635), Marriott Hotel Services ($129,360), UMUC Inn and Conference Center ($63,306), Holiday Inn College Park ($23,245), Turf Valley Resort ($16,261), Harbourtowne Resort ($14,029), Marriott Hotel ($11,577), Clarion Hotel ($10,606) and Renaissance Washington D.C. Hotel ($10,000).
The district also had 648 separate transactions at various restaurants and catering services for a total of $791,332.
That included an amazing $362,477 spent at Milloff’s Catering. There were also large tabs at Bayside Bull BBQ ($72,851), Famous Dave’s Ribs of Maryland ($51,974), Henry’s Soul Café ($35,728), The Omelette Chefs ($24,174) and Orion Gourmet Take-Away ($17,606).
Then there was Medieval Times Maryland ($15,337), Sardi’s Catering ($14,887), Carolina Kitchen ($13,836), Office Catering ($12,946), Three Brothers Italian Kitchen ($12,358), Mr. Omelette Caterers ($10,769), Phil and Syl’s Catering Service ($10,760) and Three Brothers Italian Restaurant ($10,023).
Given those numbers, county and state officials should have asked district officials the following questions, and pressed for thorough and concise answers:
How much of that money came from the general fund? Did the district’s call for a limit on “discretionary” spending address the type of transactions described above?
How many employees have school district credit cards? How closely are credit card accounts monitored? What other types of unnecessary spending has been occurring, and what is being done to curb it?
If those questions weren’t asked, and more county and state money was granted to the district, taxpayer interests were not properly represented.