Could Fiscal Emergency Release Be Around The Corner?

30 Sep , 2016  

The Financial Planning and Supervision Commission complimented the work of Treasurer Robert Kuehnle Tuesday as signs continue to point to Mansfield City Schools’ release from fiscal emergency in a matter of months. During an hour-long session the commission heard monthly revenue and expenditure reports, then unanimously approved the district’s five-year financial forecast.

Board member Quentin Potter, appointed to the panel by the director of the state budget commission, praised Kuehnle’s work. “I looked over the five-year forecast last night. I was surprised by how much material was included – much more than we usually see. I commend you for your work,” he told Kuehnle. Commission chair Jack Pierson and local member Mark Brunn nodded their agreement.

The commission is working now with only three members. Jill Haring, the locally appointed parent member on the panel, had to step down earlier this year because she no longer has a child attending Mansfield City Schools. The commission, which oversees district financial matters, has been in place since January 2014, only weeks after Auditor of State Dave Yost declared the district to be in fiscal emergency. That declaration was made after it was determined the district had no way – after a $4 million renewal levy failed in November 2012 – to offset a $3.6 million deficit. A financial recovery plan developed by the commission and the district resulted in the closing of Newman Elementary School and an extensive reduction in staff. The commission also secured a $3.6 million state loan for the district.

Over the last two years some positions have been restored. In June the district completed repayment of the state loan. On June 30 the district ended fiscal year 2016 with a general fund balance of approximately $11.9 million.

Kuehnle said the district continues to operate in line with budget estimates. Barb Bechtel, an Ohio Department of Education financial consultant who serves as commission secretary, agreed. “Their revenue and expenditures are in line. Everything looks to be good,” she said.

The final step in gaining release from fiscal emergency is a required detailed review of the five-year forecast, revenue receipts and expenditures by the Auditor of State’s office. That process appeared to be set back this summer after Laura Brown, a project manager in the auditor’s office who had worked closely with the commission, left this summer to take another position. Her successor, Steve Moomaw of the auditor’s Canton office, told the commission Tuesday that he expects to have a staff member “begin digging through” the financial reports in two or three weeks. Asked when the review would be completed, Moomaw said he couldn’t promise. “Maybe December, but possibly January,” he said.

“Let’s hope for December,” Kuehnle said.

Only Auditor of State Dave Yost can release the district from fiscal emergency. That is expected within a couple of months after his staff completes its final review. The commission will meet again at 4 p.m. on Nov. 29 at the Raemelton administration building, 856 W. Cook Road.

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