Construction of the Patrick Henry High School Performing Arts Center in 2016. File photo

Fewer independent oversight committees at school districts in the county are maintaining high transparency standards in their construction bond programs than last year, the San Diego Taxpayers Education Foundation reported Friday.

The result comes one year after a marked improvement was noted by the foundation, which evaluates the availability of bond information for the public.

“Our Transparency Scorecard ensures voters have the tools to see if the bonds they approved at the ballot box are actually implemented as promised,” said Haney Hong, president and CEO of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. “School districts with the highest grades provide constituents with relevant and accessible information regarding their bond programs’ performance.”

The study evaluates district transparency in more than 20 criteria, such as meeting agendas and minutes, annual reports, financial and performance audits, project descriptions and progress, and contact information.

The Grossmont Union High School District, Lemon Grove School District, Palomar Community College District, San Dieguito Union High School District, San Marcos Unified School District and Southwestern Community College District received perfect scores.

Almost perfect scores went to the Cajon Valley, Escondido Union, Oceanside and San Diego Unified school districts, along with the Grossmont- Cuyamaca and San Diego community college districts.

The Fallbrook Union High School District, Chula Vista Elementary School District and National School District were rated the worst. The National School District was criticized in the report for having no information online about its 2016 bond measure.

The foundation recommended that independent oversight committee websites be updated regularly, especially with up-to-date audits and financial reports; that the websites should make it easy to obtain information; and that performance audits should be conducted by auditors with demonstrated knowledge in project management and construction industry best practices.

Districts starting new oversight committees should not only follow Taxpayers Association standards, but follow the practices of the most transparent established committees.

Around the county, 23 school districts have active bond programs, according to the report.

—City News Service

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