SYRACUSE, N.Y. – We recently asked the Syracuse school district to provide a record of its travel-related spending for 2015-16 fiscal year.
The money was spent on all sorts of things, ranging from professional conference fees to hotel rooms, air travel, parking, food and a host of other miscellaneous items.
There was one big question mark on the district’s travel list – the apparently extensive use of credit cards.
There were 59 entries for credit card payments for travel expenses, totaling $48,931.39.
What were those payments for? Were all the credit card charges legitimate expenses? How much accountability is there for school credit card use?
A lot of school districts around the nation have had created financial nightmares for themselves by not keeping a close eye on employee credit card use. Is Syracuse flirting with the same type of problems?
The spending list also raised a few other questions.
One is whether all of the travel to distant professional conferences conventions, conferences and workshops was worth it. Did anyone measure how much the teachers and other staff members learned, or how much of that knowledge benefited students?
One event that jumps off the list is Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Summer Institute 2015.
The district paid a registration fee of $20,721 on July 29, 2015. There were also 27 separate payments made to the AVID Summer Institute for $195 each, totaling $5,265.
Overall the conference cost the district at least $25,896.
The Syracuse district also spent $12,475 on April 14, 2016 for something called WEB Basic Training, and another $4,625 the same day for “WEB advanced (refresher) course.” That totals out to $17,100.
One entry on the school district travel list, for $2,450 on June 22, 2016, was simply labeled “registration for William B.” We don’t know what the registration was for, but we trust that Bill learned a lot on his trip.
The school district also rang up some big hotel tabs in 2015-16.
One listing said “one night room 10/27/15 L. Lambert” which came to $399, plus $50.43 in out of state taxes. That totaled $449.43 for one night.
Another listing said “one night room 10/27/15 K. Hutson” for the same amount.
A third listing said “one night room 10/27/15 J. Toner” which cost $359, plus $45.43 in out of state taxes. That came to $404.43 for one night.
Another listing said “one night room 10/27/15 K. Burns” for the same amount.
So single-night hotel rooms for those four individuals, on that date, added up to a grand total of $1,707.72.
Those are just a few examples of many expensive transactions on the school district’s travel log.
All in all, Syracuse taxpayers might be wise to take a very look at the school district’s travel records. A lot of money is flying around. It is all well spent?