RALEIGH- A legislative watchdog committee says better monitoring of the Department of Public instruction could save the state some big bucks. In a report released Wednesday by the Program Evaluation Division it says there are roughly 19 million dollars of annual savings if some changes are made.

The report had six findings that researchers say won’t affect performance or safety. Those findings include that transportation services can reduce costs in multiple ways, school bus maintenance is inadequate and presents safety concerns and the Textbook Services Program staffing levels and allotted warehouse space exceeds current needs. DPI says changes to the current textbook situation might not save money. Lawmakers disagree.

“If the six positions were eliminated,” asked Rep. Edgar Starnes, House Majority Leader, “couldn’t you lower the fee’s to the lea’s when they purchase books?”

The report points to one specific area in transportation where it says dollars are available. It says, if the state reduced its number of spare buses it keeps on hand by 996, to the number DPI actually recommends, it could say three point one million dollars.

In addition, it points to bus maintenance, which it says could to prevent big bus problems is not being done on time.

“We determined that approximately 25 percent of all scheduled maintenance activities were performed after the recommended mileage,” says Principal Program Evaluator Chuck Hefren.

The Department of Public Instruction says savings suggested in the report, such as this one for more maintenance, could be hard to realize.

“We have three people located in the eastern, western and central part of the state,” says Ben Matthews, Director of Safe and Healthy Schools Support for the Department of Public Instruction, “for the 115 LEA’s. For us to provide more hands on observation would be pretty much physically impossible.”

The legislative members agreed to the findings in the report and have now sent the report to the full general assembly to consider if any legislative action should be taken.

– Loretta Boniti