Board set to discuss use of school district credit cards

Nov. 23, 2013 @ 09:09 AM

The Durham Public Schools board will meet Monday to discuss possibly implementing stricter financial policies and procedures regarding the use of credit cards.

While the meeting was called in response to Superintendent Eric Becoats’ questionable use of his district-issued credit card, School board Chairwoman Heidi Carter said the discussion could evolve to include whether the board should even have a credit card.

 “I think we’re going to look at it comprehensibly,” Carter said in an interview last week. “I think we’re going to consider” not having a card that is shared by the seven board members.  

The board’s card is used mostly to pay for conference registration fees and hotel rooms. The school district contracts with a private travel agent for airline flights, so charges for flights are not on the board’s card

If the board decided to terminate its credit card, members would have to use their own cards to book hotels and later request reimbursement from the school system.

School board Vice Chairwoman Minnie Forte Brown, who uses the card frequently to attend conferences and meetings of professional organizations that reimburse the district for her travel, said doing away with the card might cause some inconvenience.

“I will just have to do something different,” Forte-Brown said.

A look at Becoats’ school district-issued credit card records last month showed the superintendent charged more than $20,000 on it over a 12-month period, mostly for professional travel and meals for himself and to reward school staffers.

The board terminated Becoats’ credit card last month after meeting in closed session to discuss his spending habits and pace of travel.

Carter said school district finance officials will offer recommendations Monday about ways to tighten policy to prevent possible abuse of school district credit cards.

“It [the policy recommendation] will have some very tight controls built into it so that everything is spelled out and everything is clear,” Carter said.