Financial discussions front and center for Monday’s Sumter School District board meeting

A series of updates regarding the various finances of the Sumter School District are expected to be presented to the district’s board of trustees when they meet Monday night at Mayewood Middle School.

Set for the agenda for the 6 p.m. meeting are both an update of the district’s quarterly capital projects report, as well as another presentation from Scott Allan, the financial consultant hired by the district to examine the causes of its current financial crisis.

This will be the first public meeting Allan has spoken at since the board’s Feb. 13 gathering, during which he revealed his investigation had found a district office operating with few checks and balances, little accountability and a lack of communication between departments.  During that presentation, Allan said a large portion of the district’s $6.6 million budgetary shortfall could be directly attributed to the hiring of nearly 40 new personnel during the2015-16 school year that were placed into positions not approved in the district’s operating budget.

To initially respond to the shortfall, trustees approved a series of cost-cutting measures in January which included eliminating 47 positions throughout the district, six of which were teaching positions.  During the February meeting, however, Allan said none of the positions eliminated were among the unbudgeted positions.

The financial consultant, who initially said in January that he believed the district would need to issue a $20 to $22 million Tax Anticipation Note by the end of June, is also expected to address the district’s loan requirements.  During the February meeting, Allan tempered his projection, saying there was a possibility the district would not need as much of an influx of cash as originally thought, and could also possibly delay the loan request beyond June, which could ultimately save the district on interest costs.

The school district is coming off a tumultuous last meeting two weeks ago, which involved accusations of fiscal mismanagement and a vehement rebuttal of accusations of improprieties by one trustee which triggered outbursts from many of the audience members.

During that last meeting, Trustee Dr. Johnny Hilton also said his interpretation of the district’s quarterly capital projects report led him to believe there is a possibility $4 million is missing from the district capital projects fund, saying that projects were missing from the list and that the financial figures were not adding up correctly. In response, Superintendent Dr. Frank Baker agreed certain projects should have been listed as expenditures, and that an updated report will be provided to trustees, but adamantly refuted claims that any money could be missing from the account.

That update is expected to be presented Monday, as well.

Unlike the board’s work session meetings – like their last session – this regular meeting will allow for a period of public participation.  Rules established by the board in the past limit the public comment session, which will be immediately before any executive session, to 15 minutes, although at their Feb. 13 meeting the board extended the period slightly.  And as they have established in the past, the board will not permit public speakers to make any complaints about any specific board member or district personnel, and at past meetings have cut off speakers attempting to do so.

A sign-in sheet will be available before the board meeting, and anyone wishing to speak will be required to register their desire to do before the start of the meeting.

The Board of Trustees has a tradition of hosting their monthly meetings at various schools throughout the district.  Monday’s meeting will be at Mayewood Middle School, located at 4300 East Brewington Road.  The meeting begins at 6 p.m. and, like all other meetings, is open to the public.


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