An emergency loan taken out by Delphi Community Schools last week could be paid off by the end of the year – but only if officials are careful and restrict spending. And it will take longer than that to rebuild some school funds, according to a financial assessment delivered to the school board Monday.
Ed Eiler, a financial assessor and former Lafayette School Corporation Superintendent, says the district lost a treasurer earlier this year and transitioned to a new filing system, which made the deficit harder to track before now.
“They don’t have time to be doing things like cash flow analysis to see, down the road here where are we, until it comes up and you go, ‘Whoa, I’m worried we’ll have no money.’”
Eiler says the corporation wouldn’t have needed to take out the $1.5 million loan if they’d known about the spending deficit sooner, as they would have been able to seek a tax anticipation warrant.
He advised the board to limit purchases of new equipment, transfer money into the schools’ operation fund in the coming year, and to monitor property tax collection amounts to ensure savings accrue.
School Board President Neal Anderson says he thinks the board is likely to adopt Eiler’s recommendations, but getting the corporation back in the black will take time.
“This is going to be a process going forward of what we can do to right the ship, and I’m sure we’ll use [Eiler] and others to help us along,” Anderson says.
The board also retroactively approved placing Superintendent Greg Briles on paid administrative leave, beginning Aug. 19, and appointed Dan Ronk to serve as interim superintendent.
School corporation attorney Nick Otis says Briles was placed on leave because the board needs to investigate what led to the need for a $1.5 million emergency loan. As superintendent for the small district, Otis says Briles was responsible for many of the duties of a chief financial officer.
“He is the top employee of the school district, and as a result of that, the board wants to know why the emergency loan was necessary,” Otis says.
Otis says there’s no evidence of money mismanagement, and no funds are missing.
Dan Ronk’s contract runs through June 2020, though either the school board or Ronk can end it with 30 days’ notice. He says he hopes to bring some order to the district while it sorts out its finances.
“I’m more confident after hearing the report tonight that there’s no issues other than the cash flow, and it sounds like there are some immediate steps we can take to take care of that,” Ronk says.
Ronk taught at Carroll County High School for 20 years and was an administrator for another 17.