AP NEWS

Crosby ISD board approves to end financial crisis

March 26, 2019

After five months of cutting budgets, layoffs and extreme concern from its community, the Crosby ISD Board of Trustees approved a motion to end its financial exigency on Monday.

Before recommending the measure to the board for approval, Superintendent Scott Davis looked down, took a sigh of relief and had a smile on his face.

“This resolution was going to terminate at the end of this school year anyway, (but) we couldn’t just simply sit back and just let that happen,” Davis said during the regular school board meeting. “As we currently have our budget, it’s been right-sized, (and) it’s been a great deal of work to do that.”

Crosby ISD Board Member JR Humphries said he is glad to see the financial exigency come to and end and “ready to get rid of it and never go back.”

Representatives from the Texas Education Agency were present at Monday night’s meeting to introduce former Hudson ISD Superintendent Mary Ann Whiteker, who will serve as a monitor for the TEA.

Jason Hewitt, TEA’s director of monitors and conservators, said Whiteker’s role is to overlook the district’s annual financial reviews and other matters that need to be reported to the TEA.

“We believe that (Crosby ISD is) well on (its) way to being successful,” Hewitt said. “But we have to ensure that (Crosby ISD) is going to be successful.”

Whitetker served as the Hudson ISD superintendent for the past 23 years and retired a year and a half ago.

Whiteker praised Davis on how he handled the district’s financial exigency in his first year as the Crosby ISD superintendent and the board’s decision to bring him on board.

“Our goal is always is to provide the best education possible for our students, that’s No. 1,” Whiteker said. “All of us working together to find those areas we need to improve, move forward and become the best school district anywhere.”

During their October 2018 meeting, board members approved a resolution to declare a financial crisis and layoff employees, saving the district over $5 million in their general budget. Crosby ISD had to layoff 105 employees from various departments to save their general budget.

Generally school districts use about 80 percent of their general budget for payroll. Crosby would have used 89 percent of their budget for payroll if they hadn’t conducted layoffs.

It was also discovered during the February 2019 meeting that nearly $8 million in construction funds were not reported in the 2017-18 audit report.

A separate report that was conducted by Weaver & Tidwell LLP alleged that construction costs relating to the $86.5 million bond approved by voters in 2013 were not monitored sufficiently, and eventually the overruns swelled to $16.1 million more than was set aside. There was not enough money in the district’s general fund to cover those costs.

During the meeting, the crowd was shocked to see former superintendent Keith Moore show up and allege that the school board knew of its financial problems for a while.

Moore said the district’s financial problems arose with the construction of its state-of-the-art baseball and softball facility even though there was apparently not enough funds from the 2013 bond to finish building it.

The former superintendent apologized to community members.

“I don’t blame you for being angry with me or upset with me, I’ll take it,” a stoic Moore said during the February meeting. “I can honestly go to my grave knowing I did not lie, I did not try to hide things or do things wrong. I just did a very bad job.”

kaila.contreras@chron.com