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IPS chief declares $30M budget deficit a mirage

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In one swoop Tuesday night, Lewis Ferebee, the new superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools, made the district’s budget woes vanish.

Ferebee unveiled the results of his analysis of IPS finances by saying a previously determined $30 million structural budget deficit wasn’t real, but was instead the result of a “budgeting tactic” used by his predecessors.

“IPS has over-projected expenses to maintain a functional cash balance,” IPS officials said in a statement released after Tuesday’s meeting of the IPS school board. “The district has operated under a budgeted deficit, rather than an actual deficit.”

Ferebee’s analysis found that the 2013 budget projected $244 million in funding but $274.4 million in expenses, creating a deficit of $30.4 million.

But some of those expenses were for projects that never actually occurred, such as the expansion of pre-kindergarten programs, the creation of a new science school and the hiring of new employees.

The system's actual 2013 expenses totaled $237.8 million, while its revenue totaled $246.2 million.

That produced a 2013 surplus of $8.4 million, according to Ferebee’s analysis, which will be reviewed by an independent accounting firm.

IPS announced it had a $30 million structural deficit about a year ago, when the district was being led by interim superintendent Peggy Hinckley. The budget deficit was the basis for IPS’ decision to lay off 100 employees last year, and it played a role in IPS’ decision last month to terminate 23 administrators.

Ferebee gave no indication Tuesday that any of those decisions would be reversed in light of the new budget, but he did indicate that raises could now be considered for IPS teachers and staff.

Yet, even before the structural deficit was announced, then-Superintendent Eugene White frequently cited budget concerns as he made decisions to close some IPS schools and lay off employees.

In interviews Tuesday night with the education web site Chalkbeat Indiana, both Hinckley and White defended their analyses of IPS’ finances. Hinckley questioned whether Ferebee was jumping to an incorrect conclusion.

“He has no experience as a superintendent and no experience with funding in Indiana,” Hinckley told Chalkbeat Indiana. “I don’t understand how they could have fewer expenditures by that much money.”

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  • Truth Hurts uh.....
    This is 100% right. IPS has built no new schools or programs in 25 years. Most IPS schools did not even have air conditioning. I went to IPS (1989) AND worked at IPS (in the 1990s). Teachers never earned "big money" at IPS. It's good to see that someone has gone over the IPS books and seen that this is a sham. People(WIBC) are making the IPS chief to be "loony" because he has gone over the books and is reporting what he is seeing. They ALWAYS do Blacks this way -- when we speck the truth, they just don't want to hear it. Sad. But it's just like that famous line -- they can't handle the truth, lol. IPS wants Shortridge High School to be for Whites. They are sending the Shortridge High School principal (who is Black) to a "troubled" Black IPS school because the Shortridge High School principal has worked hard and is getting good results at Shortridge High School. IPS wants to send the Black Shortridge High School principal to the "bad" IPS school and let a the bad IPS school's White principal come in and be principal at Shortridge High School. Wow. Not cool. Race @ work. truth is truth. people need to stop hiding behind lies and LIVE the Golden Rule.
  • Momma Mia
    Do you think these guys could make my finances have a 30 Million surplus....sigh?
  • Auditors?
    Does IPS not have external auditors reviewing their books????
  • IPS
    Wait a minute...time for the State Board of Accounts to come in. This is taxpayer $$$ and this really sounds on the surface to be a bait and switch. Is there $$ that has been spent for illgotten gains? Or to manipulate the taxpayers into more taxes or an lillegal termination of positions? This really stinks

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