IPS: There is no $30 million budget deficit

Supt. says financial reporting has been misleading

INDIANAPOLIS - Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee says his district is not facing a $30 million deficit as previously thought.

Ferebee made that announcement to the school board of commissioners during a meeting Tuesday night.

Ferebee told RTV6 the district has released misleading figures for a number of years, and that school board members had not been provided with monthly or quarterly reports on the district's financial picture.

The superintendent said that will change in April, when school board members will get that information.

Ferebee said a review of his district's books show that IPS ended 2013 with an $8.4 million surplus, not a deficit of $30.2 million.

The Call 6 Investigators have requested a review of the district’s financial balance sheets to independently review the information. A district spokesperson was working on providing those documents.

The superintendent explained that in the past, the district would release a “projected budget” but not an “actual budget.”

For example, the 2013 projected budget included $244 million in funding and $274.4 million in expenses. The expense side, Ferebee said, was supposed to cover the expansion of pre-kindergarten programs and the creation of a science school. But Ferebee said the expense figure was bloated and never corrected, since that money was never spent on those particular projects.

In reality, the 2013 actual budget involved $246.2 million in funding and spending of $237.8 million.

Ferebee said he discovered the budget issue over the winter break, and he has consulted the district’s law firm and accountants to review the matter.

Ferebee said he will be asking outside auditors to come in and review the books.

He also stated that he does not foresee any mass layoffs or school closings in the 2014-15 school year, and he mentioned that district officials have begun talks with the teachers union about compensation moving forward.

He said the district is still looking for ways to run an “efficient and effective” operation centered on the students, and there was no desire for “quick fixes or band aids.”

The leader of the state’s largest school system says working under an “actual budget” scenario gives the school system some breathing room that wasn't possible under the “projected budget,” which carried a multi-million dollar deficit.

Ferebee said his goals moving forward will include the opportunity to be more transparent with the budget and to improve district services and student achievement.

RTV6 met with Ferebee Tuesday morning at 11 to get a briefing on the district’s financial outlook and its impact. We agreed not release any of the information above until it was released to the public.

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