Buffalo School District Defends Travel Expenses

6:52 PM, Nov 29, 2012   |    comments
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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A day after a report criticized its spending on travel, the Buffalo Public School District defended its expenses as necessary and oftentimes "mandated."

The Education Action Group, a non-profit education reform organization, said BPS spent $196,986 last fiscal year on hotels, airfare and even "limousine" and "chauffeur services."

"To think that they're spending nearly $200,000 on travel, going to 4- and 5-star hotels, riding in limousines, it just -- I think it sends a bad signal to taxpayers that their priorities are out of wack," Kyle Olson, EAG's founder, said.

At BPS's board meeting Wednesday night, Finance Controller Geoffrey Pritchard defended the expenses.

"Much of it's mandated, some of it by the state in terms of they require us to go to Albany frequently for meetings," Pritchard said. "Additionally, certain programs that we have like the International Baccalaureate require certified staff to attend training sessions in different parts of the country."

Pritchard said staff normally stay at the hotel hosting the event, because of discounted rates, included meals and no need for shuttles.

"If we had to put them up at a different hotel that might be cheaper somewhere else, we'd have to shuttle them back and forth, and that cost there alone would probably be the difference between the two," Pritchard explained.

As for the "limousine" and "chauffeur services", Pritchard said those were similar to taxi companies just with "limo" in their name.

2 On Your Side examined 5 of EAG's recent reports on school spending in different districts. Of the 5, Buffalo actually had the 4th lowest per-pupil cost for hotels. Richmond, Va.'s school district actually spent more than 5 times what Buffalo spent, when adjusted for the number of students.

While he defended the total travel costs, Pritchard said the district is doing even more to reign in expenses. When new Superintendent Dr. Pamela Brown took over, she changed the travel process, in most cases requiring prior permission from herself or the CFO before travel was approved.

"We're really trying to maintain control as much as we can on our expenditures," Pritchard said.

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