FOX45 Finds More Six-Figure Payroll Problems at City Schools

FOX45 Finds More Six-Figure Payroll Problems at City Schools

A Project Baltimore investigation raises serious questions about the accuracy of Baltimore City Public Schools payroll. At nearly $700 million, payroll is the largest expense in the district’s budget.

“People at home need to question the administrators in the school,” says a long-time City Schools employee who asked not to be identified. When we first introduced viewers to this educator, she had suggested we investigate Edmondson Westside High School. We discovered, in 2017, North Avenue paid six-figure salaries to two principals at Edmondson, even while one of those principals was working at a school in Kuwait.

“The students are in dire need of money, programs, books,” says our source. She went on to say this about this City Schools payroll, “It's a bigger problem than one story, yes.”

So, Fox45 kept digging. Project Baltimore sorted through payroll data and learned Edmondson was not alone. In 2017, nine city schools had two principals on payroll.

One of those schools was Abbottston Elementary. But North Avenue confirmed to Fox45, one of the principals has not been at Abbottston in five years, saying “her assignment since 2013 has been at the district office.” What is that assignment? A 2016 email, apparently sent by that principal, says she’s a “Strategic Climate Support Specialist”. Yet, on payroll she’s Abbottston Principal, making $124,808 a year.

This investigation also found North Avenue’s payroll lists two principals in the office of Chief of Schools. But North Avenue confirmed to Fox45 the Chief of Schools only has one principal.

If we found examples of payroll inaccuracies only concerning principals, what does that say about the other 10,000 employees of City Schools?

North Avenue explained in an email, most of the schools with two principals on payroll changed principals in June of 2017. But by December, payroll still had not reflected that change. A previous statement to Fox45 explained, “A staff member [on leave] retains the title of her or his last active assignment for reporting purposes in [the payroll] database.”

Bookkeeping has been an ongoing issue with City Schools. Last month, the State released an audit that found problems with payroll. The audit found, “There was no independent review to ensure employee personnel and payroll transactions recorded in the automated system were correct and accurate.”

“We need accountability,” says Republican Delegate Kathy Szeliga, who is also a former City Schools teacher. Szeliga is now calling for a full audit of the City Schools payroll. She says taxpayers have a right to know what jobs City Schools employees are actually doing.

“Because of your reporting at Project Baltimore, we’re actually going to get some attention to this. We have to act,” says Szeliga. “We cannot continue to let Baltimore City waste dollars that really belong to our students.”

That State audit, released last month, found a number of concerns with City Schools, including $10 million in goods and services purchased without prior approval. It also found pay raises were not subjected to independent reviews. And it found errors in bus contractor and taxi company payments.

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