INTERVIEW WITH SUPT. FEREBEE ADDED ALONG WITH COMMUNITY REACTION, PHOTOS & NEW DETAILS! In a stunning announcement, the Indianapolis Public Schools, which had been touting huge deficits in the range of $30 to $40 million dollars for the past few actually is in pretty good financial shape. IPS Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee told the stunning news at an IPS School Board meeting Tuesday evening, announcing that for the calendar year 2013, IPS had a budget surplus of $8.4 million. A sharp contrast to what the Board and community had been told would be a projected budget deficit of some $30 million dollars. Dr. Ferebee uncovered the financial discrepancies as he reviewed the financial data of the district several weeks ago as part of working with the efficiency effort that IPS conducted with the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce. The reason for the discrepancy was that for a number of years IPS had been announcing their financial results based on “projections” or what district officials thought their revenues and expenses would be. And then when the fiscal calendar year ended, IPS officials wouldn’t inform the public and the School Board what the district’s actual financial conditions were. For example, in figures shared by Ferebee with the Board, community and AM1310 The Light, in Calendar Year 2012, IPS projected revenues of $250.9 million, expenses of $290 million and a projected deficit of $39.1 million.
In Calendar Year 2013, IPS projected revenues of $244.2 million and projected expenses of $274.4 million with a projected deficit of $30.2 million. But the actual financial data for 2013 was far different. Actual revenues to the district from state aid and property tax dollars were $246.2 million; a slight increase of $2 million or 0.9% higher than the projections. But big disparity was in actual versus projected expenses.
For 2013, IPS had projected $274.4 million in expenses, but actual expenses were just $237.8 million; a miss of $36.6 million or 13.7%. Ferebee explained that some of the wide variance in projected versus actual expenses in IPS came in programs that were proposed but never implemented. Like IPS’ plan to create a specialized high school for STEM subjects or IPS’ original expansive plan for pre-kindergarten classes. In a detailed spreadsheet shared with AM1310 The Light shed insight into some of the overestimated expenses. For example IPS estimated they would spend $14.8 million busing the remaining Black high school juniors and seniors from IPS neighborhoods to Decatur, Perry and Franklin Townships. But actual spending was just $4.3 million; a nearly $10 million overestimated. IPS overestimated salaries and employee benefits by some $15.1 million and overestimated purchased services by $8.1 million. Originally in 2013 IPS planned to reopen four schools. They didn’t happen resulting in $5.3 million in projected but not used expenses. Bottom line in 2013 IPS overestimated expenses by some $40.2 million. IPS 2013 PROJECTED VS ACTUAL SPENDING One of the confusing things about IPS’ budgeting process is that while IPS employees are hired on a school year basis – July thru June – IPS’ finances are based on a calendar fiscal year. That means in preparing a calendarized budget, IPS must factor in expenses and revenues for the last six months of one school year and the beginning six months of the following school year. The stunning news that IPS is not a deficit ridden school system, but one that’s in better financial health than many thought is a shock to the community. In a briefing with media, Ferebee acknowledged the confusion. Ferebee went out of his way to reassure residents and employees of the district that for the upcoming 2014-2015 school year there will not be reductions in force of employees. Though Ferebee did indicate that he and the Board would continue to look for staff efficiencies in central office staff or in redundant and unneeded administration staff. Ferebee also said that there would be no school closings for the 2014-2015 school year. In the near term the fiscal picture for IPS is a bit brighter because the deficits that had been talked about for years apparently isn’t the actual reality. Obviously such a wide gap between what the community was told about IPS’ financial condition and the actual more positive results raises questions about the quality of work performed by those IPS employees in charge of the budget and preparing financial data. Supt. Ferebee wouldn’t directly comment about those employees saying it was “a personnel matter”. But sources tell AM1310 The Light that the community shouldn’t be surprised if at least one high ranking IPS employee with responsibility for the budgeting and financial processes isn’t separated from the district. Ferebee and members of the IPS School Board led by Board President Annie Roof, stressed that going forward IPS would practice financial accountability and transparency. Ferebee is asking that IPS’ auditors conduct an audit and that the Council of Great City Schools be brought in and also conduct an outside audit of IPS’ finances. Additionally, Ferebee and the IPS Board promise that there will be public releases monthly of budget reconciliations of projected versus actual spending and revenue. Along with quarterly updates on the district’s budget. IPS PRESENTATION ON BUDGET PROBLEMS ISSUES Click the arrow to hear Supt. Ferebee explain to Amos & Listeners What Happened with IPS’ Finances/ Runs 24 Minutes. Click Arrow to Hear Community Reaction to the IPS Budget News. Runs 21 Minutes ©2014 WTLC/Radio One.