Earle schools working back to fiscal solvency
District in the black as new school year begins
Earle School District ended last fiscal year $300,000 in the black and has paid off about $500,000 in past bills.
State appointed Superintendent Dr. Richard Wilde told the Earle City Council that the school district is now in a position to begin paying the state back on the money it borrowed as well.
“The fact that we didn’t roll over any old bills into this year puts us ahead,” Wilde said.
Earle School District was taken over by the state In November 2017 after it was discovered that the district spent $1 million in Federal Title 1 and school lunch funds on in allowable expenses in 2015-16.
An audit also turned up numerous financial inconsistencies showing the district was $150,000 in debt.
The district was required to pay back $300,000 of the Title 1 funds and had to borrow money from the state.
Wilde has been taking steps to get the fiscally distressed school district back on solid financial ground.
He told the council that they will start re-paying $10,000 a month on the loan.
“That will take us about three years to pay that money back,” Wilde said.
“If we get in a better fiscal situation we will accelerate that. But right now that’s an appropriate level to pay back and still operate the district and maintain the cash flow.”
The district began classes this week. Wilde said the school district has 550 students enrolled and had a head count of about 500.
In other business, Wilde reported that the school district has leased four new school busses which he expects to arrive in November.
Despite the school district’s
tight finances, Wilde
said they decided to go with a three year lease option.
The district is spending about $30,000 a year to repair its current busses which are old and nearing the end of their recommended service life.
“Some of our busses are older than what is advised for school districts to run, Wilde said. “So we are looking at a three year lease option that will put us around $60,000 a year. By then we should be in a better position to either continue to lease or start purchasing.”
Wilde also updated the city council about construction of the new elementary school.
The school district began construction on a new $7 million, 40,000 square foot school behind the current building. Wilde said the project is about three weeks behind schedule due to recent rainy weather, but added that the project is still on target to be finished in July 2019.
“The first concrete pad went in on Monday,” Wilde said. “So we have one wing of the base pad poured and laid out.”
Despite the construction which has caused some minor inconveniences with traffic around the school, Wilde said the first week of school has gone smoothly.
“We feel pretty fortunate things have gone well,” Wilde said.
Wilde also praised the efforts of the Cardinal Club and the Earle Youth Athletics Association which held a free school supply drive last weekend.
“There were quite a few festivities at the high school,” Wilde said. “I think it was a big hurrah for the community that provided school supplies. We were very lucky to have that.”
Councilman Tyrome Hurst, one of the organizers, praised the community effort that made the event a success.
“The community came together and made it possible for the kids,” Hurst said. “It was great to see the kids smile. It was a great and successful event.”
By Mark Randall