NewsEducationEducation Policy / March 12, 2014

IPS Embracing 'New Opportunity' After Budget Issue

Sam Klemet
IPS Embracing 'New Opportunity' After Budget Issue

For years, Indianapolis Public Schools said it was operating with a deficit, but its new Superintendent says not only is that false, but IPS actually has a surplus.

When Dr. Lewis Ferebee took over last year, he was told the district had a $30 million shortfall.

Now, after just over 100 days on the job and crunching the numbers himself, he is confident the district has about an $8 million surplus.

"From my research, we never reported actual revenues to actual expenditures," he said.  "And, when you don't have that type of reporting, then you could get lost in a budget deficit process that we have had in the past."

He says the problem stems from the district over projecting expenses to protect what he calls a "bloated" cash balance.

Board Commissioner and former President Diane Arnold says the news is a surprise, but a welcomed one.

"I also think that we needed to cut expenses anyway, and it's been said that we were still running this district based on 65,000 students instead of 30,000," said Arnold.  "So,  many of the cuts that we made we needed to make.  I think the other positive side is extra money that we have or we find, this board has been committed to funnel those to the classroom."

The deficit was named as a reason the district laid off teachers and cut programs last year. But, Ferebee contends that was due mostly to drop in enrollment, not a perceived deficit.

Ferebee says the cuts were needs to right size the district, but adds that moving forward; IPS will be more transparent with its finances by reporting actuals on a monthly basis and providing quarterly updates.

"I feel very confident not only in our ability to build credibility, but to also enhance credibility over a period of time," said Ferebee.

An audit will be conducted on the new findings and the district is creating a budget development committee tasked with reviewing expenses and revenues and will help put together the next year’s spending plan.

"I do believe this is a new opportunity," said Ferebee.  "It definitely opens the door for us to be more strategic with how we handle our funding.  But, it also gives us an opportunity to better align our resources with our needs.  So, our strategic priorities going forward will drive how we utilize our resources."