Budget surplus doesn’t mean further cuts won’t happen

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Change is coming to how the state’s largest school district manages its money.

That’s what the superintendent for Indianapolis Public Schools declared on Wednesday after he discovered the district’s budget wasn’t in a deficit but rather a surplus.

According to Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee’s research, IPS is up more than $8 million rather than $30 million in the hole. And he wants to make sure everyone, especially the public, knows that.

“I was really surprised, really taken aback.”

That was Dr. Ferebee’s reaction after he said he dug deeper into his district’s finances and discovered the numbers weren’t what they appeared.

“Our actual budget deficit was a budgeted deficit and not a structural deficit. Therefore, the district does not have a $30 million structural deficit,” said Dr. Ferebee.

If it sounds confusing, don’t worry, school board members felt the same way.

“What we were doing was projecting in the budget that we were going to spend a lot more money than we had revenue coming in. And in fact, those projections were not accurate,” said school board member Sam Odle.

Those projections could be thanks to major changes that happened last summer when budget cuts forced 100 workers out of a job saving IPS $6.5 million.

Dr. Ferebee said the cuts weren’t because of a lack of money, but rather a lack of students enrolling in the district.

“Whether we had a deficit or not, those were sound business decisions to reduce positions that were not necessary to get the best outcome for our students,” said Olde.

Both the board and Dr. Ferebee agree the cuts will continue. But no longer being in a deficit gives their schools and the students a better foundation for the future.

“It definitely opens the door for us to be more strategic with how we handle our funding and also give us an opportunity to better align our resources with our needs,” said Dr. Ferebee.

Dr. Ferebee said the district from now on will report its actual spending and revenue as opposed to just projected spending and revenue.

He says they’ll do so on a monthly basis.

Dr. Ferebee was also asked Wednesday if IPS’ Chief Financial Officer was let go because of his discovery. But all he said was she is still an employee and that he wouldn’t comment further on personnel matters.

The budget for IPS might no longer be in a deficit, but a former administrator warns it’s no cause for celebration.

24-Hour News 8 reached out to previous superintendent Dr. Eugene White. He said the major deficit didn’t happen because his staff only projected there would be one if necessary budget cuts didn’t occur.

“They would have had a deficit if they did not start cutting, and they’ve been cutting now for a year and so they’ve avoided that kind of deficit but they still have a fine line,” said Dr. White. “They don’t have any room for error there.”

White went on to say he hopes Dr. Ferebee looks at the $8 million as a cushion for the district in case emergencies happen.

He also said despite the surplus, more cuts are in IPS’ future, and he’s confident that Dr. Ferebee is aware of that.


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