CALUMET CITY | The Hoover-Schrum Elementary District 157 School Board is considering getting debit-like purchasing cards for its members to use for expenses related to attending board workshops and conferences.
The board discussed the benefits of having such cards but took no final action regarding them Tuesday.
Business Manager Alicia Evans said spending limits can be set for each card and restrictions can be put into place on how the cards can be used and what purchases can be made with them.
The purchasing cards, also known as "p-cards," would replace cash advances or debit cards given to board members for travel-related expenses such as airfare, lodging, meals and other costs incurred while attending conferences and workshops.
Board President Natalie Barnes said members would continue to be required to turn in receipts for any purchases they make with cards. But if receipts are lost, the district would still have an accounting of all purchases made on the cards, she said.
"I think it will be a good tracking system for board members and their expenditures related to board business," Barnes said. "Basically, every expenditure is tracked. With cash, you don't have that ability to watch how it's spent."
She said she spoke with board members from other school districts that have purchasing cards, and they say the cards are convenient and work well for them.
Board member Charles Garcia said the cards would provide a good way to monitor expenses, but he also thinks safeguards should be put in place.
"Occasionally, people will lose receipts and the purchasing cards will eliminate the problem of lost receipts, because the purchases are tracked. We still need to turn the receipts in, but it's not quite as large of an issue because the transactions will be documented electronically," board Secretary Terri Morrison said in an e-mail response to The Times.
"The only problem I see is if receipts aren't turned in, someone could use the card for a spouse's meal and if it's not itemized, they could get away with charging the district for the spouse's meal and it might not be caught," she said.
The board's finance committee is expected to discuss and recommend card restrictions, including spending limit amounts, for the board to consider.
With the purchase cards, Morrison also said, the district would not have to worry about board members refunding unspent cash from their travel advances because the money would remain on the card which would then be returned to the district after the conference.
Barnes said she wanted the board to consider the cards now, prior to this year's joint conference of the Illinois Association of School Boards, Illinois Association of School Business Officials and Illinois Association of School Administrators, and have them available to members for the annual November conference in downtown Chicago.