VALPARAISO | The Porter County Council unanimously agreed Tuesday night to seek professional help with its newly charged job of signing off on the Valparaiso Community School Corp. budget.
The group intends to invite three financial consulting firms to its Thursday budget meeting to select one for the job.
What that job will be is not entirely clear.
Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said the council will need someone to guide it through the school budget review process because none of the members have experience in that area.
"There's been some financial duress over there," he said. "I think we have to have a clear picture."
Yet talk of taking the next step of having an audit done raised opposition from council Vice President Karen Conover, R-3rd, who said the county cannot legally pay for that type of work.
Conover said problems at the school district reported in a state audit earlier this year are not unlike issues flagged during audits of county government.
"There are no improprieties there," she said.
Whitten said he intends to keep politics out of the process, but mentioned Valparaiso recently denied him a copy of an ethics complaint filed against the school system.
The school board members are appointed by the Valparaiso City Council and Center Township Board. Conover works for the Valparaiso clerk-treasurer and her husband, Chuck Conover, is the Center Township trustee.
"We've got a school system with some issues," Whitten said. "I didn't ask for it to be dumped in my lap."
New state legislation requires the County Council to approve proposed budgets of appointed school boards. The council passed a resolution earlier this summer supporting the idea of replacing the appointed board with an elected version.
The firms being invited to meet with the council at 5:30 p.m. Thursday are McMahon & Associates of Munster and H.J. Umbaugh & Associates and Crowe Horwath, both of Indianapolis.