Monday, March 02, 2015
Audit: Huff, Board's might-as-well spending contributed to Joplin R-8 financial decline
"After the May 2011 tornado, the district started numerous construction projects, including four new buildings to replace five damaged schools (two elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school and technical center).
"Excess unplanned expenditures incurred during the construction of the high school contributed to the declining fund balance, including site remediation due to an old abandoned lead mine at the building site and the inclusion of a track, additional tennis courts, concession stand, bleachers, lighting and artificial turf at the sports complex.
"After the beginning of construction, the district determined it would be more efficient in the long term to have athletic facilities onsite."
The auditors also noted the loans the district has been taking out to cover the board and the Huff Administration's excesses.
"The district obtained $37 million in short-term financing in August 2014 and anticipates obtaining an additional $14 million in short-term financing in March 2015 to cover construction expenses coming before the district receives final reimbursement from the Federal and State Emergency Managment Agencies.
"It is important the Board of Education continue to monitor the budget and cash flow projections to maintain a balanced budget and sound financial condition."
In his response to the recommendation, Huff seems to indicate that he and the Board of Education had always intended to overspend.
"Within a few months of the tornado, the administration disclosed to the Board of Education and the community that the initial emergency disaster recovery effort would result in an estimated fund balance decline in the General Fund to as low as eight percent of General and Teachers Fund expenditures by fiscal year 2016. District fund balances have fallen to 10.64 percent as of June 30, 2014, on the path to our early eight percent estimates. As a district, we will remain diligent in our efforts to meet or improve upon that early estimation as we expend fund balances to meet disaster-incurred and education-related expenses."
Nowhere in that explanation does Huff explain how spending money on athletic items that were not in the original plans to the tune of eight and a half million dollars is a wise and prudent use of funds. But don't worry because everything will be o. k.
"In June 2013, the Board of Education adopted the Standards of Excellence. Standard 5 includes an indicator of financial stability with a goal to reach an operating fund balance of 25 percent. As the fiscal year 2015-2016 budget is developed, the district will construct a plan to begin increasing General Fund and Capital Projects Fund balances over time.