Fiscal emergency in Monroe Schools is over

Monroe Local Schools is back in the hands of the Board of Education following a vote by the Financial Planning and Supervision to disband Thursday.

Once the vote was taken the Monroe district was officially released from fiscal emergency and state control.

Dave Thompson, a representative of the Auditor of State’s office, presented board President Leslie Stone and Superintendent Phil Cagwin a framed copy of the release.

The district was placed in fiscal emergency in May 2012 and was one of the fastest to be released, as the statewide average is four years, according to Roger Hardin, chairman of the financial supervision commission.

“Today is a day of celebration,” Stone said, adding she knew the community would “pull together … protect the district and come out stronger than before.”

Stone said many people in the district and the community made many sacrifices and put the students first.

“I’m looking forward to the future with eagerness,” she said.

State Sen. Bill Coley praised the teamwork of the district and the community. He said the district “didn’t take its eye off the ball … the kids didn’t suffer” and that the performance of the district was magnificent.

“Job well done,” he said.

Cagwin, who was hired two years ago, noted the district did well on the new state report card. The report card also noted that Monroe’s per pupil costs are $6,528, while the state average is $8,702. As for public schools only, 10 districts in Ohio spend less per student than Monroe. The district ranks in the bottom 10 percent of all districts in per pupil expenditures and when ranked by the percentage of budget spent in classroom instruction, Monroe schools ranks at 57 percent.

“It’s been a fantastic two years working with fantastic people,” he said.

Treasurer Holly Cahall echoed Stone’s comment that the experience would make the district stronger than before by going through this process.

“We know where we’ve been and we know where we’re going and moving ahead,” she said.

Cagwin said the district was notified last week by the Auditor of State’s office giving the green light after a final review for the release and the termination of the financial oversight board that was created to oversee the district’s fiscal recovery.

Last week, Cagwin said the district was “excited” about the end of the fiscal emergency designation.

The district was placed in fiscal emergency in May 2012 by Auditor of State Dave Yost after over $5 million in a budget deficit due to misspending.

The district’s six-person Financial Planning and Supervision Commission — a mix of state-appointed officials and local community members — approved a resolution in late June requesting the Ohio Auditor of State perform its final audit of the Monroe Local School District as it relates to being on fiscal emergency since May 2012.

The district was required to develop a financial recovery program that included borrowing funds from the state, passing a 7.5-mill tax levy in November 2012, and completing a number of items in its policies and procedures.

Cagwin said the final three remaining criteria that were met before leaving fiscal emergency were: completing an inventory of all equipment in classrooms; an outline a process for forwarding mail to the central office from school buildings in the summer months to ensure no bills or invoices are lost or behind on payment; and adopt policies and procedures for receipt of payments. The state originally listed 19 items to complete in order to be released from state control, Hardin said the final item was in the process of being completed.

Since being declared in fiscal emergency, Monroe schools has borrowed about $2.6 million from the state’s Solvency Assistance Fund as well as a reduction of $3 million in overall spending. As of late June, the district has paid back $2.4 million, and has a remaining $200,000 to pay back by the end of 2015. The district will also be monitored on its post-release progress by the state auditor’s office for the next two years.

In a report to the Ohio General Assembly on April 1, the state Department of Education said the Monroe school district had shown great improvement towards fiscal integrity over the past year.

As of April 1, Monroe was one of eight school districts in the state that was in fiscal emergency.

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