DPS board to discuss new policy tonight to prevent board members' overspending

Categories: Education, News

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Denver Public Schools board members -- and their credit cards -- have been making headlines ever since Education News Colorado uncovered that more than one overspent their $5,000 annual budget, with Westword cover subject Andrea Merida leading the pack. This week, the board is poised to take the next steps toward making sure it doesn't happen again.

At a meeting tonight, the board is slated to discuss a new policy on spending and credit card usage that was drafted by board treasurer Mary Seawell. And at a meeting Thursday night, the public is invited to comment.

Click here to read a draft of the policy. From the section titled "Purpose:"

This Policy is to provide operating convention for Denver Public Schools' Board of Education members in the fulfillment of their fiduciary responsibilities.

Establishing and adhering to this Policy ensures for a uniform practice by Board members so as not to cause or allow any financial condition that is inconsistent with achieving the goals of the District or otherwise endangers the District's fiscal condition or public image. Further, this Policy instructs upon the management of purchases made using District procurement cards and identifies necessary controls and limitations for such purchases.

The draft policy says board members must adhere to "the same standards and restrictions for use of the procurement card as outlined in the Denver Public Schools Procurement Card Handbook for employees." The handbook lists the following purchases as prohibited.

  • Advertising for personnel positions - 5 points
  • Alcohol or tobacco purchases - 150 points
  • Bus excursions - 25 points
  • Cash or cash-type transactions - 50 points
  • Cell phone service (including talk, text, data, apps, etc.) - 25 points
  • Computers (including laptops & tablets) - 50 points
  • Consultants & service providers (independent contractors) - 50 points
  • Gift cards/certificates - 50 points
  • Gifts for employees (including meals, flowers, etc.) - 25 points
  • Personal purchases - 25 points for the 1st violation; 50 points for the 2nd and subsequent violations
  • Software (includes licenses, online subscriptions and renewals) - 50 points
  • Split purchases (exceeds per transaction limit, split into two or more transactions) - 50 points
  • Textbooks - 10 points
  • Travel related expenses not allowed: meals/food - 50 points
  • Vehicle expenses for personal vehicle (e.g., gasoline, car wash, etc.) - 50 points

If a cardholder uses his or her card for any of the above expenses, he or she earns the corresponding number of points. If a cardholder exceeds 150 points in a single fiscal year, his or her card will be suspended for six months, the handbook says. The cardholder must then keep his or her record clean for the next two years. Accumulating 75 or more points in that time period will cause the card to be canceled permanently.

What do you think, readers? Does the draft policy go far enough to prevent overspending?

More from our Education archives: "DPS: Should district push back first day of school to September to avoid the heat?"

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How 'bout just getting rid of the procurement cards altogether, and requiring DPS board members to make the initial purchase themselves, and submit a reimbursement request later? That's how pretty much every business on Earth does it these days, precisely due to abuse of company credit cards...

Sarah Fong
Sarah Fong

So you can get gas 2 times a year and the third time gets your card suspended for six months? This must have come straight from the brain of Nate Easley.

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

Hilarious -- exactly the sort of officious system of demerits such as might be applied to the system's inmates!

Why not require that board members attend DPS classes on how to make a budget?

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