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This "Smoking Gun" is on Fire

Smoking Gun is how ACTA members and concerned Arlington citizens can alert us to possible misdeeds and/or misspending by officials of our local government. One Smoking Gun recently told us that top management of Arlington’s Kenmore Middle School “had spent $10,000 to buy every student a green polo shirt with the Kenmore logo on it . . . (and the shirts) were used only on the first day of school, to gin up school spirit, or something like that.” The schools’ FY2006 adopted budget expected an enrollment of 744 students. So if 750 shirts were ordered, the average cost would be $13.33.

The story doesn’t end there, however. According to the minutes of the PTA’s September 13, 2005 meeting, the school’s principal showed up to “plea for PTA to contribute $5,000 (which is one-half of the cost) toward the cost of the polo shirts given to each child on the first day of school.” The minutes also recorded the principal “(e)xplained that he has a tight fiscal year and that any support toward this expense would be appreciated.” Although “some PTA members (were) reluctant to pay $5000 now without reworking the (PTA’s) budget,” the minutes showed the “motion carried.” The sender of the Smoking Gun e-mail wondered “if there is any control on frivolous spending by principals, especially when parents get nickel-and-dimed to pay for things with real educational value.” The example provided by Smoking Gun was a teacher’s request for $25 from parents so their children could attend a field trip that in year’s past was paid for by the school or by the PTA.

Although $10,000 is not material within the context of the $6.8 million budgeted for Kenmore for the FY2006 school year, taxpayers must wonder how much spending would be eliminated if the school’s management was spending their own money rather than taxpayers’ money?