Columbia public schools spent more than half a million dollars on staff and administrative travel expenses during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2002, according to a state auditor’s report released Wednesday.
State Auditor Claire McCaskill said school districts spent a total of about $30 million on attending conferences, seminars and other events involving school administrators and employees. Travel involving students was not included.
Those travel costs are equivalent to a state average of $32.48 per pupil. Columbia public schools spent $33.52 per pupil for a total of $544,321 in travel expenses.
“We found out that it’s apples and oranges the way that they keep track of travel information,” she said.
McCaskill stressed the need for standardized travel expense records and for greater accountability, especially in the midst of the current budget crisis.
“It may be that every dime of the $30 million that was spent last year was spent well, but until these expense recordings are standardized, there’s really no way to tell,” she said.
McCaskill noted that the Columbia school district received “a pretty clean bill of health” when it was last audited by her office in 1999. That audit was authorized by a public petition from Columbia residents.