Porter County Council to hire consultant to review school budget
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent August 28, 2012 8:18PM
Updated: September 30, 2012 6:25AM
VALPARAISO — Admitting there isn’t enough time for an independent audit of the Valparaiso School Corp. budget before it must be reviewed by the Porter County Council, the council decided instead on Tuesday to bring in a financial consultant to assist with the task.
“I do think we need some input, a second set of eyes,” Council President Dan Whitten, D-At-large, said before a public hearing on the first reading of the county budget got under way.
Three accounting firms will come to the council’s next hearing — on Thursday, when second readings of the county budget begin — so one can be selected for the work.
Whitten said he and Councilman Jim Polarek, R-4th, have been meeting with the school corporation’s administrators in advance of approving the budget. The council will hold a public meeting to review that and other municipal budgets on Sept. 25.
Under a new state law, the council will have to approve the school budget because the board is appointed. Valparaiso is the only community in the region with an appointed board; the city council and the Center Township Trustee make the appointments. The council passed a resolution in late June supporting an elected board.
While Whitten is a school board attorney, he said the rest of the council does not have experience with school budgets. He also noted the school corporation’s ongoing financial concerns.
“There is some financial duress there, without finger-pointing, but we need a clear picture before we make a decision,” Whitten said.
He and Polarek approached accounting firms about an independent audit, but the firms said the time frame was too tight.
The State Board of Accounts audit of the school corporation, which was released in February, would include a response from the corporation, Councilwoman Karen Conover, R-3rd District, said.
‘There’s no secret to the problems experienced last year. They were front-page news,” she said, questioning the need for another audit.
One of the people in the audience was Kevin Cornett, who is spearheading a movement for an elected school board. He had hoped for a different outcome from Tuesday’s meeting.
“I’m disappointed that they don’t feel they have the time frame to get (an audit) in,” he said. “I will have to settle for a CPA looking at the books.”
The firms under consideration are McMahon and Associates of Munster; Crowe Horwath of Indianapolis; and H.J. Umbaugh and Associates, also of Indianapolis.