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State Auditor Edelen Commends JCPS Action on Audit

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State Auditor Adam Edelen commended Jefferson County Public School administrators on Wednesday for their response to hisaudit of district finances.

“If every organization could take our findings and implement them with the earnestness and the seriousness that Jefferson County Public Schools have done, that would be very good news for the taxpayers of Kentucky,” said Edelen, speaking at the Louisville Forum on Wednesday afternoon.

The audit included a call to reduce the number of items on back to school lists, freezing the property tax rate, working to establish a financial transparency website and commission a review of all employee salaries. Edelen said JCPS' response so far is a “powerful demonstration of a commitment to reform."

“They need to continue these efforts,” he said and added that the district is “nowhere near the beginning of the end” when it comes to developing reforms to address the findings of the months-long audit.

The audit was released to the public in May. Some board members have criticized the audit because data used was from the 2010-2011 school year.  Edelen said using the older data was the only way to ensure “apples to apples” comparisons, because that was the most recent batch of data available for all districts.

Related: Kentucky State Audit Calls JCPS Administration 'Bloated.'

JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens said she had no disappointments in the initial audit or in its aftermath.

She said it has been a “catalyst for improvement.”

And Edelen added the JCPS audit is leading to improved transparency efforts in other public institutions across the state, as well.

“If we can do it in Louisville, we can do it anywhere in Kentucky,” he said.

The forum was moderated by WDRB reporter Toni Konz.

Employee Salary Review

JCPS has hired the Virginia-based Management Advisory Group Inc. to conduct a full scale review of salaries belonging to every district position.  The study will begin later this year and cost the district about $192,000, Hargens said.

This will be the first comprehensive salary review of district employees since 1979.

“It’s best practice to do it every 20 years,” Hargens said.  When asked why it has been so long since a district salary review has been conducted, Hargens said she didn’t know.

“Time gets away from you, maybe,” she said.

She wouldn’t say if the district would be willing to reduce a position’s salary if the review calls for it.

“This isn’t about people, this is about positions,” she said. Meaning the review is not meant to evaluate employees worth, but rather to compare JCPS salaries to those in other school districts.

Jacob Ryan joined LPM in 2014. Ryan is originally from Eddyville, Kentucky. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.