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District sends third solvency plan to state - The Galveston County Daily News : La Marque

November 27, 2014

District sends third solvency plan to state

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Posted: Friday, February 28, 2014 12:30 am

LA MARQUE — The La Marque school district has again submitted a solvency plan after being required to work with an independent organization to address issues identified by the state. 

District officials said the template for budget and cash flow projections, among other things, led to some of the questions brought up by the state. A plan using new templates provided by the state was submitted this week, said La Marque Superintendent Terri Watkins.

Watkins said working with an outside agency to review the district’s plan was a positive and informative step. 

A letter dated Jan. 17 from the Texas Education Agency stated the district would need to find outside help and made clear that failure to receive approval could lead to a downgrade in the district’s accreditation status. 

“During the review of the financial solvency plan submitted by your district, it was determined that the plan would not permit your district to avoid projected insolvency,” wrote Education Commissioner Michael Williams in a letter to the district. 

The Texas Education Agency rejected the district’s first two solvency plans and had given the district until today to send in a new plan, according to an education agency spokesperson. 

In the letter, Williams stated that the district would need to work with an outside group to deal with “discrepancies” and “formula, logic and data entry errors” in its previous plan.

For example, the letter stated the 2014 budget achieved a reduction of about $2.757 million, which was only 62.1 percent of the stated savings goal. The 2015 budget indicated an increase of $81,431 instead of the stated savings goal of $794,274. 

The state also took issue with projected cash flows for fiscal years 2013 through 2015 and with a projected increase in state revenue in 2015 even though enrollment is declining, among other issues. 

Watkins said the district hired the Harris County Department of Education to address the state’s concerns. The solvency plan was sent to the state via email Wednesday and mailed a hard copy Thursday, she said.  

The district spent $5,300 to obtain the department’s assistance on the solvency plan, Watkins said. 

Dianne Duron, the La Marque school district’s business manager, said the previous plan was drafted in just two weeks with the help of consultant Ann Dixon in June. 

After a phone conversation with education agency representatives, the district submitted further information regarding the budget and cash flow and people projections, she said. 

The issues brought up by the state were because of flaws in prior templates used to create the solvency plan, she said. 

The old templates used by the school district included things such as grant funds and not just general fund revenue, said Jesus Amezcua, assistant superintendent for business services with the Harris County Department of Education.

Amezcua worked with the district on its latest solvency plan and said the new templates used only general funds and left out other projected revenue like grants. 

“We needed to develop and use (the education agency’s) template, their format,” he said. “Stick to the formatted template that they had and not adjust it in any way.” 

Watkins said working with Amezcua and his group was a positive thing for the school district. The group used the school district’s information and plan to answer the state’s questions, she said. 

She said the district is moving in the right direction financially. 

“Overall, we are pleased with the outcome and the information they provided to us and then we in turn provided to the state,” Watkins said. “We are just wanting to get the plan approved and to be able move forward.”