Citing a lack of due speed by the Laurel School District to get Laurel’s finances back on track, the State of Delaware has named a Financial Recovery Team to Laurel to manage their finances.
Secretary Ann Visalli of the Office of Management and Budget and Controller General Russ Larson granted the request and assigned 7 people to the team, including staff from their offices, the Department of Education and the Department of Finance, as well as the business managers from the Delmar School District and Sussex Tech.
The state can invoke special powers that allow the state to intervene when school districts or charters are in “financial distress:. Education Secretary Lilian Lowery issued a memo last month asking for permission to send a Financial Recovery Team to Laurel.
According to state law, the recovery team, with Lowery’s approval, has the authority to examine the district’s books and make financial policy changes without needing the consent of the district’s superintendent or its school board, and they have the right to pre-approve any expenditures of district funds.
Laurel is projected to fall nearly $106,000 short of the district’s budgeted expenditures on June 30.
Lowery said Laurel was given a list of ways to trim such expenses as cellphone plans, vehicle leases and office costs, but she said those suggestions have not been enacted. I do know the cellphone plan has been revised at a savings and that the board has been moving on other areas, but apparently the state is not satisfied with the progress thus far.
Laurel like other school districts has been hit with cut backs of federal and state funds as have other schools, however Laurel is a rural community with a very small tax base and has been unable to raise necessary capital to off set the losses. Even with the tax increase this year, with the small tax base, the increase yielded little money.