School Board transfers funds to avoid negative cash balances at end of year but consultant says schools are at risk for State intervention
December 20, 2018-After the fiscal crises in Gary and Muncie, the State of Indiana directed the Distressed Unit Appeals Board to create criteria designed to identify schools that exhibit signs of financial distress. House Enrolled Act 1315 established a fiscal and qualitative indicators committee charged with determining whether schools were likely to be in need of State intervention:
According to the report by MTW Consulting, “the eight bullet points from the IEERB summary should be reviewed by the Hammond Schools since all of them would indicate the very real potential for the School City of Hammond to be placed on the “watch list” based on current data.”
Some Steps Already Being Taken
To their credit, Hammond School Trustees have already begun some of the steps suggested in the report. A strategic planning committee was formed and made recommendations for school closures-one of the primary cost cutting measures suggested in the report. The referendum provides $10M per year in operating costs but for the district but that appears to be insufficient to address the long-term financial difficulties. According to Trustee Murphy, one board member quashed any attempts to cut administrative staff from the budget. The Board of Trustees should also be commended for publishing the report although it came only after it was mentioned by Trustee Murphy and discussed on social media. The report is dated November 12, 2018 and was paid for by Hammond taxpayers.
Unfortunately, Trustees, under the leadership of Board President Deborah White, continue to try to hide the true financial condition of the schools from the public. As reported exclusively by the Gazette, the strategic planning committee process itself was shrouded in secrecy from formation to conclusion and the suggestions now lack legitimacy as they did not seek input from the public. At a meeting of the Board of Trustees last night, Deborah White appeared to be visibly upset as outgoing Trustee Cindy Murphy brought up the MTW Consulting report and discussed some of the findings. Absent the discussion by Trustee White and pressure from the Gazette, it is unlikely the report would have ever been published.
Full MTW Consulting report (Source: http://www.hammond.k12.in.us/UserFiles/Servers/Server_43216/File/MTWReport.pdf)