This past winter, Baltimore school officials fervently defended two of the system’s most liberal expenses for employee compensation — overtime and leave pay, saying the costs documented their hard work and underscored their commitment to trimming the central office.
Using salary data obtained through a Maryland Public Information Act request, The Baltimore Sun found that the system had paid out $14 million in overtime over four years and $64 million in unused vacation, sick and leave pay benefits to employees when they resigned or retired.
"There are costs of doing business, and this is one of those times where we just need to make sure that those dollars are always being scrutinized," the system’s chief of staff, Tisha Edwards, said of overtime costs.
And while officials said they understood why the system’s generous leave payments were called into question, Edwards said, "We do think it has a place in the school system, and we don’t think it reflects an unreasonable expense."
But at the same time officials defended the payouts to The Sun, they were also acknowledging problems to independent auditors who found that much of the overtime paid to employees was unsubstantiated by records, according to preliminary findings outlined in an audit submitted to city school officials by the Office of Legislative Audits. The preliminary report was obtained by The Sun.
Additionally, auditors said in the draft report that the system’s leave payouts were "excessively generous," about four times as much as other large districts around the state paid out. And auditors also noted in the draft document that the system had paid some employees for more days than they were allotted.
The Sun published Sunday the preliminary findings of the city’s audit, which officials said may be revised.