Bill with new requirements for school finance officers and training for board members clears 1st step

01/14/2014 09:16 AM

After financial misdeeds among some local school officials and fiscal problems in other districts, the Kentucky General Assembly on Tuesday took a first step toward increasing the requirements for school district finance officers and training for superintendents and board members.

School finance officers would have to have a business or accounting background, while superintendents and school board members would have to take annual ethics and finance training under a bill that cleared the House Education Committee 26-0 with three lawmakers passing.

Education Committee Chairman Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, added the new requirements into a measure brought by Rep. Mike Denham, D-Maysville, that would require school financial reports to be posted online.

House Bill 154 now would direct the Kentucky Department of Education to set regulations outlining minimum standards, such as having an accounting background, for school finance officers. Right now the only qualification for a school district finance officer is that he or she has to take 42 hours of training every two years.

This comes after audits found former superintendents at Dayton Independent Schools and Mason County Schools took improper benefits. The former Dayton Independent superintendent is awaiting federal sentencing after being accused of stealing $224,000 over eight years.

And Monticello Independent School District had to merge with Wayne County schools after it got into financial trouble.

“In Monticello, the finance officer was the IT guy who served as finance officer part time,” said Hiren Desai, associate commissioner of the Department of Education. Desai told the committee that wasn’t the root of Monticello’s financial problems but the relative inexperience and dual duties of the person didn’t help.

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday first forecast the Education Department’s support of the changes on Pure Politics Monday.

The newly-amended bill will outline how school board members will have to spend six of their 21 hours of annual training. Two will be in school district finance training, two in ethics and two in superintendent training.

And superintendents, under the bill, would have to take at least three hours each year in school finance training and three in ethics.

“It’s really a checks and balances system,” Graham said when outlining the new provisions in the amended bill.

David Baird, interim executive director of the Kentucky School Board Association, said the new requirements haven’t gone before the association’s membership for their input yet.

He said he just wants to make sure any new training requirements wouldn’t take effect until January 2015 because school board members take their annual training each January.

The amended bill received wide bipartisan support on the Education Committee, although three Republicans — Rep. Jim DeCesare of Rockfield, Rep. Brian Linder of Dry Ridge and Rep. Jill York of Grayson — passed amid concerns that the bill was dramatically changed Tuesday morning and wanted more time to review the new provisions.

“I feel like this might hold off some problems in some districts with their finances,” Denham told the committee.


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