Fort Worth ISD Once Again Demands Critical Voter Oversight
We’ve previously touched on Fort Worth ISD’s unjustified borrowing addiction earlier this year, citing the district’s addition of over $1 billion in new debt since 2006 to finance “classroom growth” despite enrollment growing by less than four percent. Now, it seems that Fort Worth ISD is once again demonstrating the need for more critical oversight. A June 16th internal audit of Fort Worth ISD operations found the district purchased over $2.7 million worth of equipment and software deemed entirely unnecessary, a large bulk of which has been completely untouched.
Not only has the district been unnecessarily housing this idle equipment, but it has shelled out hundreds of thousands over the years on maintenance for unused equipment. Forgoing any semblance of fiscal lucidity, the board is slated to spend $85,029.71 this year on alone maintenance for it too. How many full-time teachers could they hire with that kind of cash?
This isn’t the only time an audit has exposed financial problems with the district. In 2009, it was revealed that flaws in payroll software caused overpayments of more than $1.54 million to district employees and staffers.
Fort Worth ISD’s cavalier attitude towards finances is hardly new. In 2004, the district was rocked by a defrauding scam in which $10,000,000 was stolen from the district in a kickback scheme via construction projects paid for with bond finances. After that plot was discovered, the executive director of maintenance and the contractor both received prison sentences. Subsequently, after public pressure was applied, the superintendent, Thomas Tocco, was reassigned to a new job with the same $314,000 salary.
Despite what common sense dictates would have been irreparable damage to the public trust, the district was still able to continue feeding its debt addiction with a bond election in 2007 to the tune of $593.6 million under a new superintendent. Unfortunately, this kind of financial malfeasance is not unique to Fort Worth ISD: Beaumont ISD was recently rocked by a similar defrauding scam involving construction bonds. (Curious how school boards are seemingly able to game the system in their favor when passing local bonds? Click here for more information.)
With voter turnout in school board elections frequently below 5%, it comes as little shock that local officials’ budgetary practices are so cavalier. As long as citizens continue to accept the status quo of ignorance, they miss crucial opportunities to hold local officials accountable. As this pattern continues, citizens can expect more of the same: millions in waste and nothing to show for it.