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Letter: IPS surplus depleted by state cuts, inflation

August 31, 2018

Thank you, City-County Council Vice President Zach Adamson, for giving IPS the opportunity to set the record straight regarding a widespread misunderstanding of a budget discrepancy uncovered a few years ago [IPS’ big ask: What a $220 million referendum means for the district and its taxpayers, Aug. 24].

During Dr. Lewis Ferebee’s first year as IPS superintendent, he correctly determined that previously reported deficits of nearly $30 million were inaccurate. The superintendent’s findings, moreover, were subsequently confirmed by two independent audits.

This occurred mostly due to the difference between projected expenditures (which were artificially high) and actual expenditures. If spending had equaled appropriated budget amounts, IPS would have incurred a large deficit.

Fortunately for district taxpayers, however, our revised accounting approach resulted in IPS being approximately $8 million in the black.

For a district with an annual budget of about $260 million, it is easy to understand that steadily decreasing state revenues, inflation, a long-overdue increase to teacher pay and holding the cost of employee benefits neutral would quickly deplete an $8 million surplus from the prior year. In fact, the following year’s budget realized a projected deficit and an actual deficit of $12.3 million.

We are proud of the strides we have made to create more accurate and transparent budgets. Our efforts to find new efficiencies, shed unneeded properties, and our openness to collaborating with community partners, such as the Indy Chamber should reassure taxpayers that our finances are well managed.

The entire $220 million we are requesting from taxpayers this November in our operating referendum will go towards continuing our efforts to make our compensation more competitive. More than 80 percent of our $52 million capital referendum ask will be dedicated to enhancing school security measures.

We welcome tough questions, like Councilor Adamson’s, and look forward to a constructive public conversation between now and Election Day this November.

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Weston Young, chief financial manager,
Indianapolis Public Schools

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