Brookfield schools released from fiscal emergency

District spent five years in crisis

Tribune Chronicle / Bob Coupland State Auditor Dave Yost, right, presented a proclamation to Brookfield school officials Friday for their success in getting out of fiscal emergency after nearly five years at the final meeting of the Financial Planning and Supervision Commission. Speaking with Yost are Brookfield Board of Education President Kelly Carrier, left, and Brookfield Superintendent Velina Jo Taylor.

BROOKFIELD — A large cake sitting on a table at the Brookfield High School cafeteria on Friday said it all: “We Did It.”

After nearly five years of being in state fiscal emergency, the Brookfield Local School District was officially released at the last meeting of the Financial Planning and Supervision Commission, which officially voted to disband.

To celebrate the long-awaited day, State Auditor Dave Yost attended the final meeting of the commission and gave praise and recognition to school officials for all the work done to get the district back on track financially.

More than 25 people attended the gathering, which included refreshments and a large display showcasing many programs, sports, academics and clubs offered to district students. Musical instruments, yearbooks, basketballs and other items were placed on a table.

Yost said the district of 1,034 students had successfully attained financial stability after spending almost five years in fiscal emergency.

“People are not always happy when the auditor of state shows up. But today is a great day for the community. You made some tough, difficult decisions in the last five years. Today everything is in the black, and you are sailing ahead,” he said.

Yost said it was a great visit to the district.

“We are leaving town, and I hope we are not coming back,” Yost said.

School Superintendent Velina Jo Taylor said the district has been through five long years with a lot of hard work and team effort by many to get here.

“We appreciate all that you did, but are glad that you will not have to come back,” she said to Yost.

Friday’s announcement comes more than 12 years after a general fund deficit landed the district in a state of fiscal caution in 2005. District officials repeatedly failed to propose a financial recovery plan to address the deficit, leading to declarations of fiscal watch in March 2006 and fiscal emergency in May 2013.

Faced with a deficit of more than $1 million in 2013, the district has since cut spending by roughly $1.5 million through reductions in staffing and purchased services. Steps taken to refinance bonded debt are expected to save the district and its taxpayers another $2 million in its bond retirement fund.

“No school district overcomes more than a decade of financial hardships without steadfast support from the community. District officials, employees, students and taxpayers should all take pride in this accomplishment,” Yost said.

Just a week before the fiscal emergency declaration, voters passed a continuing levy that generated an additional $618,000 for the district by the end of fiscal year 2014.

Nita Hendryx, northeast chief project manager with the Auditor of State’s office, said the district had to satisfy the following requirements to be released from fiscal emergency:

• Effectively implement a financial accounting and reporting system in accordance with the Ohio Revised Code;

• Correct or eliminate all fiscal emergency conditions and prevent new ones from occurring;

• Meet the objectives of the financial recovery plan; and

• Prepare a five-year forecast in accordance with standards issued by the Auditor of State.

“What a day this is. Since 2013, this district has had to borrow money to make payroll. This is the first year they will not have to. You had to make some tough decisions to reduce costs, but you made it,” Hendryx said.

Board of Education President Kelly Carrier said she looked up many quotes about education, including, “Education is the most powerful weapon a human uses to change the world,” by Nelson Mandela.

“I read so many quotes on education and I felt so inspired that the impact of all these quotes put things into perspective of what we have all been through here. This is an exciting day to be finally released from fiscal emergency,” Carrier said.