Errors Led To Baltimore County Schools Overpaying $823,000 To Former Employees

By FOX45
Posted on 02/20/24 | News Source: FOX45

Baltimore, MD - Feb. 20, 2024  -  Baltimore County Public Schools, this year, will receive a record amount of funding - nearly $2.5 billion.

But a recent audit found the school system paid more than $823,000 to employees who shouldn’t have been on the payroll.

“This is simple. This should not be happening at any level of government,” said David Williams with the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

Williams has been a government watchdog for 31 years. But he says he’s never seen anything like the findings in the audit conducted by Baltimore County Public School.

The audit was performed by the BCPS Office of Internal Audits, which found the school system paid more than $823,000 to employees who no longer worked for the school system. The audit calls them “separated employees” which simply means they’ve been separated from their jobs.

“This is a basic function of a company or any organization. When you leave that organization, you don't get paid,” Williams told Project Baltimore.

According to the audit, 174 separated employees were overpaid $726,568.34 between January 2020 and March 2023.

A previous investigation, which prompted the audit, had already found $87,053.84 in overpayments to former employees.

That adds up to $823,622.18 in overpayments, which the report blames on a “lack of internal controls.” In short, the district didn’t remove the employees from payroll after they stopped working.

“This means that the system is completely broken and that there needs to be a whole revamp of the system,” explained Williams.

The report scolds the school system saying, “If not corrected, the potential risks to BCPS include: reputational risk, undue financial liability, and continued opportunity for fraudulent activity.”

To fix the problem, the audit recommends that BCPS “implement internal controls” to quickly remove separated employees from payroll while, at the same time, recovering the erroneous payments. To date, according to the district, $103,764 in overpayments have been paid back. But some of the overpayments cannot be collected because the statute of limitations under Maryland law has expired.

The audit also recommends that BCPS “determine additional loss related to non-salary expenses.” The $823,000 is just money paid to the former employees. The amount does not include benefits such as pension contributions, annuity contributions, and health insurance. In other words, the cost to taxpayers could be much higher.

“This $800,000 is just the floor. There's probably a lot more that was paid out, probably more than $1,000,000 at this point when it comes to pensions and other payouts,” said Williams. “This needs to be fixed immediately. This cannot wait.”

In a statement, BCPS told Project Baltimore that a “corrective action plan” has been developed and the district is working to “fully implement the internal controls.” The district added, “We are confident that with these new measures in place, future errors of this nature will be prevented.”

Project Baltimore asked the school system if it’s “determined those additional losses” mentioned in the audit, such as pension payments. The statement did not answer that question.

“I think this is emblematic of the problem of education in Maryland right now, is that they're not doing even the simplest of tasks and that's tracking people that have left,” Williams told Project Baltimore. “Baltimore County and the state are struggling financially, and they need to account for where every dollar has gone and to only see a three year snapshot of this problem really begs the question what has been happening for the past 10, 15, 20 years.”