C-P board says district in ‘financial exigency’

Move would allow trustees to cut personnel costs, programs

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Mar. 23, 2007 - Como-Pickton Consolidated Independent School District’s board of education earlier this month declared the district in a state of financial exigency, giving the district several options for reducing expenditures.

Also, during a special meeting Thursday night, the board decided to give the farm equipment purchased by former Superintendent Bryan Neal back to Kubota Company. The board also renewed contracts for "pretty much all district employees."

By declaring the district in financial exigency — meaning an urgent situation needing prompt action — on March 8, the board has the option to "reduce financial expenditures for personnel"; make program changes including "elimination, curtailment, or reorganization of a curriculum offering, program or school operation"; and to terminate a contract during or at the end of a contract period.

According to board President Mark Humphrey, financial exigency can be declared based on any event or occurrence that creates a need for the district to reduce financial expenditures. Those reasons can include a decline in district resources, enrollment or tax revenues, a cut in funding, or an unanticipated expense or capital need. 

He also said the board wasn't cutting staff or programs at the time of the decision, but that the policy would allow them to do so if it becomes financially necessary.

The declaration follows financial evaluations after allegations of misuse of district funds resulted in Bryan Neal resigning his post as superintendent. The investigation continues, with financial experts brought in at Texas Ranger Phillip Kemp's request, according to District Attorney Martin Braddy, who helped secure three felony warrants for Neal's arrest in January.

Neal was alleged to have forged another administrator's name to a check written out to himself, and to have purchased Kubota farm equipment for his personal use in the district's name.

The board voted in February to declare the farm equipment as surplus property and allow it to be auctioned for no less than the amount owed on each piece.

Neal's attorney had requested that the former superintendent be allowed to make a final payment on the equipment and keep it, as he had made 18 payments on the equipment by having more than $500 taken out of his paycheck monthly following the purchase.

�The school district received two bids for the items, but the bids had been withdrawn after it was made known Neal planned to take legal action, including seeking injunctions to halt the sale of the equipment, which could tie up the sale for an extended period of time.

Because the district had defaulted on the last two payments for the equipment — putting "a mark on our credit" — it was decided it would be in the district's best interest to sign the equipment back over to Kubota. Kubota would then be responsible for any further action pertaining to the tractor and front end loader. The district would be unable to apply for any credit with Kubota for 90 days, but it wouldn't count as heavily against their credit rating as it would if Kubota foreclosed on it.

The measure passed on a 5-1-1 vote, with one board member abstaining.

The board then went into executive session to consider contracts as presented for district faculty and staff from teachers and aides to maintenance, custodians, cafeteria staff, bus drivers and monitors, business officer staff and special education.

All presented were approved for renewal with two exceptions.

The board held a separate vote after closed session discussion regarding Julie Biggerstaff. She was approved to continue teaching high school and junior high reading, beginning ESL and ESL, and English II and III, on a 5-2 vote with Brad Car and Gerald Walters voting against rehiring her.

Wendy Neal will not be employed with the district next year. The board unanimously accepted the dean of students' resignation.

Also, the board approved extending two administrator's contracts by one year. Lydia Walden was given unanimous approval. Gerald Walters and Brad Carr were the only dissenting opinions for extending high school principal Jeannie Lay's contract.

Acting Superintendent Sandra Billodeau noted that while the teaching and administrative contracts were renewed, teachers and administrators could be subject to reassignment should the candidate appointed superintendent choose to do so. No reassignments were made at the special March meeting. however.

The school district also has received "several" applications from candidates interested in becoming the superintendent. The board is slated to make a final decision regarding that position at the April 9 board meeting.

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