Monday, February 1, 2010

More Fiscal Mismanagement at Decatur School District

The fiscal mismanagement at the Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township is mind boggling. Between the spending spree Superintendent Don Stinson and Assistant Superintendent Jeff Baer have been on and the rubber stamping School Board, our School District has come to face a nearly $10 million hole.

As I noted in my last blog entry, I have been reviewing the minutes of the School Boards regular meetings, which are posted on the District website. At issue in this post is the interest paid on a 2008 tax anticipation warrant (termed by Assistant Superintendent Jeff Baer as a 'temporary loan').

As background, a couple of years ago, you will recall that Mitch Daniels threw out the property value Assessment done by the various Assessors in Marion County. All properties had to be reevaluated for value and thus we began several years of delayed assessments. Since there were no official assessments, property tax collections had to be delayed. As you also are aware, with the property tax bills payable in 2010, we will finally be back on schedule.

But, during these few years, all governmental units in Marion County (and elsewhere in the State) had to get loans, called Tax Anticipation Loans or Warrants. These loans were for the amount of property tax revenues that unit expected to eventually receive. Once the property taxes for that year were finally collected, the money was delivered to each governmental unit, which then repaid the loans. Interest on the loans had to be paid from other funds in each unit's bank account. Not a good situation, but a common situation nonetheless.

In the minutes for the regular School Board meeting on March 11, 2008, Superintendent Don Stinson said that due to the delay in Assessments and property tax receipts, the district had to borrow money in 2007. "The interest on this borrowed money cost Decatur $900,000. If it is necessary to continue borrowing money this could impact the schools by $1,500,000 to $2,000,000 in the 2008 school year."

Later that year we find the following mention in the October 14, 2008, minutes:

"Dr. Baer asked permission to begin the process for pursuing temporary loans in the amount of $23,000,000 for 2009. He explained that because of the status of the state budget and the fact there has been no collection of property taxes it has become necessary to borrow against local tax monies. At present, the school corporation is not scheduled to receive any property tax money until June of 2009."

There was never mention of the Board receiving information about the terms of the loan, like interest rate.

Okay - fine - the District got a $23 million temporary loan to make ends meet until the property taxes for that year were collected and distributed. But, here's the shocker. We see in the March 4, 2009, minutes:

"Dr. Baer presented claims 6953 through 7137 in the amount of $12,291,264.24 for board approval. He explained that $10,000,000 of this claim amount was for reimbursement of interest on the temporary loans."

What? How did the interest on a short term, temporary loan of $23 million get to be $10 million? Where did they get their loan? The nearby Payday Loan place? What's wrong here?

For comparison, I asked the City Controller for Indianapolis and Marion County, David Reynolds, what the principle and interest had been on their tax anticipation loans for the past few years. His Deputy Controller, Jason Dudich, replied with the numbers. For 2008 they borrowed about $282.5 million and paid about $5.2 million in interest. For 2009 they borrowed about $212.8 million and paid about $3.1 million in interest. And in 2010 they expect to borrow about $163 million and expect to pay about $2.5 million in interest.

But here in Decatur we are supposed to believe that we borrowed $24 million but paid $10 million in interest ????? Given the City's principle and interest figures, we should have been paying no more than about half a million in any one year.

The fiscal mismanagement has been staggering and each revelation shows that mismanagement to have been even worse than we imagined previously.


Anonymous said...

You are right. You reviewed the board minutes when you wrote about nepotism. The board policies (on the website) were violated when they hired Huffman's grandson - did he vote for the hiring? It is fiscal and people mismanagement.

Anonymous said...

Wish I could sit in a suite and watch the COLTS and eat St. Elmo's food.

Anonymous said...

We would like to see some Saints in Decatur. Go COLTS.

Anonymous said...

So, knowing all of this how does the township go about getting someone to audit them for the last few years and see if we can get any of them removed for misconduct?

Anonymous said...

"A recall of school board members cannot be done because the state of Indiana does not allow recall elections. An elected official can only be removed by impeachment "by the state legislature or a circuit court for committing a crime." Other grounds for removal are being a convicted felon, habitually intoxicated, not living in the district you represent, violating the Hatch Act, which is being a federal and local government employee at the same time."

This is from a quote in a Warsaw Inidana newspaper. Hope it helps.

Looks like Stinson should resign or retire or maybe they could reassign him.

Anonymous said...

I love how you go to the district website:
then click:
"Click HERE for Enrollment Management Information"

And this is all you get. (There's a folder at the bottom for General Information but it's empty. And the email and phone number are generic, so you don't know who, if anyone, is reading what you submit.)

Information About Enrollment Management
Why is Change Coming to Our Schools?

There have been some changes occurring in Decatur schools that you need to be aware of regarding student enrollment. The MSD of Decatur Township is one of the very few school districts in Marion County that continues to increase in school age population.

This year, for the first time, the MSD of Decatur Township has over 6,300 students. Unfortunately there has not been an even distribution of these students throughout our schools which has resulted in some elementary schools reaching capacity while others are declining in enrollment. We are experiencing overcrowding conditions at West Newton and Valley Mills Elementary Schools and yet there is additional space available going unused at Stephen Decatur and Lynwood Elementary Schools.

Also No Child Left Behind, through Title I, has mandated school improvement plans forStephen Decatur and Lynwood. This means that parents can choose to send their children to Valley Mills or West Newton. While Stephen Decatur made Annual Yearly Progress last year, Lynwood did not and it becomes necessary to change the structure of that school. All of this means that simply redrawing new attendance boundaries for elementary schools is not possible because parents would continue to have the option of sending their children to another Decatur school and overcrowding issues would remain.

Making a Plan to Move Forward

An Enrollment Management committee made of educators, parents, community members and administrators has been working for more than a year on how to resolve these situations. A conceptual framework listing possible changes put together by this group has been approved by the school board so that further investigation of these concepts can occur. The major focus of the committee in planning the redesign of our elementary program is to improve student achievement.
This framework allows the school corporation to consider different options including the possibility of the following:
Relocating the Early Childhood Center to the current Lynwood Elementary location.
Housing grades one through six in each of the following locations: DILC Gold Academy, DILC Blue Academy, Stephen Decatur Elementary, Valley Mills Elementary, and West Newton Elementary.
The elementary school program at all schools based on current research and parents, staff, and students will have an opportunity to help design the program. Parents will be able to have some choice of schools and some programs may also be offered as an option.
All schools in the district will be balanced by taking into account economic levels within the Decatur Township community.
Students will be able to remain in one elementary school building for grades one through six.
Even though this restructuring occurs at a time of great financial concern, it is necessary to move forward with a commitment not to increase spending.
More information will be forthcoming and several means will be used to keep you updated on the progress being made. The school board will consider recommendations from the committee at their board meeting January 12.
Questions? Comments? Call our Parent Hotline Message Center at the intermediate school 856-4100, ext. 8301 and leave a message so a member of the Enrollment committee can contact you as quickly as possible.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that the volunteers on the enrollment committe are so feed up? They have put in a lot of hours and hard work. And now they are trying to answer the question "For What?" Many of these people have thrown their hands up. The board and super will do whatever they want!

Anonymous said...

I am confused. Is what they want is to make big money and fly on taxpayer dollars? The administrators don't live in our district. Maybe we should reinvent this school system.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Why is it that the volunteers on the enrollment committe are so fed up? They have put in a lot of hours and hard work. And now they are trying to answer the question "For What?" Many of these people have thrown their hands up. The board and super will do whatever they want! February 2, 2010 9:07 AM

The enrollment committee met many times with catered dinners. Even in good times that's not what I want my tax money spent on. The agendas and committee reports could have been almost photocopied from the previous meeting because there was nothing to do until the administration made a decision. A big waste of time, money and volunteers.

Five years ago the district told us research said 5th and 6th need to be apart from younger and older kids, which I agree with. Now they say research supports minimizing transitions between schools. The research changed that much in 5th years? No - it's a cover story to minimize talking about how Lynwood is on the verge of being taken over by the state. How can this administration have any credibility left?!

Had Enough Indy? said...

anon 10:06 -- the firing of Tim Able from the coaching position and the hiring of Huffman's grandson - Jason Dixon (let me know if I've got the names wrong, folks) - are buried in the 'staff reports'.

What I do see is that on February 10, 2009, a large number of people spoke during 'Patron Comment' in favor of keeping Able as coach. Dale Henson, President of the Board thanked the folks from coming and said they now had heard from 'both sides'.

On March 4, 2009, the 'staff report and addendum' was approved by a unanimous vote.

On April 14, 2009, the 'staff report' was approved by a vote of 4-1, with Doug Greenwald being the lone 'no' vote.

Heaven forbid that the School Board minutes give enough detail that the public can discern what actually was being voted on. Stinson writes the minutes to have as little detail as possible and the Board rubber stamps it; something I sincerely hope the next Board does differently.

Had Enough Indy? said...

anon 1:48 - the State Board of Accounts is currently conducting its every other year audit of Decatur's books. If they see anything inconsistent with the law that carries a penalty, they will refer it to the Indiana Attorney General and the Marion County Prosecutor for investigation.

The problem with the numerous violations of law I have cited in this blog is that there is no penalty for the violations. Our only recourse as a community is to impart our own justice by voting the rubber stamping, state law violating, ethically challenged school board members out of office and vote folks in who will make these things right.

Had Enough Indy? said...

anon 2:09 -- I can't see Stinson remaining as Superintendent after the election is over, unless he thinks he can make more money by being bought out of his contract. Its lots of fun running up the bills and maxing out the credit cards and getting feted at Colts games by vendors -- not so much fun to fix the financial mess, pay your bills, and make do with what you have. The party is over. I don't think Stinson wants to help clean up the mess.

Had Enough Indy? said...

anon 6:22 -- show me a person who thinks any of Stinson's committees are anything more than a dog and pony show, and I'll show you somebody who has been hoodwinked. It doesn't matter if its a committee to decide the fate of Armstrong Pavilion or a committee to decide between candidates to hire or a committee to determine the grade alignment in the schools. All conclusions are predetermined. He will let the committee choose the 'color of the drapes' so to speak, but not the 'design of the house'.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for looking into the consequences of these despicable actions by the board and administration. I agree the major consequence of all of this will be the outcome of the next board election. In the meantime it would seem important for the teachers association to say NO, NO, NO to any pay decrease before the results of the next election. Stinson refuses to cut the administration costs. The data from the Department of Education indicate that since he became Superintendent there has NOT been achievement gains like those in IPS and most of the townships. Anyone who asks questions will be labeled as someone who is not a team pleayer and it will be important for the new board to ask questions so he probably will retire but the date on his contract in the Indianapolis Star is 2014 so if the board has to buy him out it will be very expensive.

Anonymous said...

Thats messed up. They get all that money, live large, and don't care about kids getting their education. It's not surprizing that it's all about the money anymore.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

How did the Board and Stinson get out of a public vote on closing Lynwood before they told the teachers that the school is being closed?

Had Enough Indy? said...

anon 4:26 -- they have not yet taken that vote. Their next board meeting is February 11. They will likely take some votes then, but I am not privy to which items they will vote on at that meeting.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly why no one wants to run for school board... the rumor mill. People hear something and automatically is't gospel. Or else people take what they've heard and make an entire story up about it. I don't know anything about the Greenwald's and their son, but this is exactly why I would not run for school board. Look at how this is affecting him and his kids when he hadn't even done anything to deserve these attacks. Attack the school board's actions that have to do with the school, not a family. I haven't seen any of these rumors come to fruition.

Valerie Carter said...

I also posted this one "February 11, 2010 11:05 AM".