When Dallas' Only Daily recently mentioned the upcoming $142-million school-bond package vote in Lancaster, it said only that it will "alleviate overcrowding and address future growth." Two days later, The Dallas Morning News revealed the district has bigger issues, all of which is rather neatly summed up in the opening paragraph of a subscription-only story in this morning's edition of The Bond Buyer. As in: "You've changed finance directors, failed to file the fiscal 2006 audit, and watched your past two bond packages get rejected by voters. What next? Call for another bond election."
Implied in that opener: Good luck with all that.
Then again, the district just south of Dallas did get a "superior achievement" rating on its last audit, and one expert on the subject says turning in an audit late isn't always an indication that there's an issue with the books. It just doesn't look good to beg for money when, more than two months after the January 28 deadline, you can't account for what you got...or not.
Says a Texas Education Agency spokesperson in The Bond Buyer: "We have not yet received their 2006 financial report. They have their auditors working on it, as far as we know...but at this point, we don't know when it will show up."
As for the finance director issue, well, he is a familiar face at Lancaster ISD: When chief finance officer Eugene Smith was fired in January (for some reason, The Bond Buyer says he resigned), the district made former finance chief Ted Warren its current business operations director. (Incidentally, Pegasus News has done an excellent job of keeping up with the doings at Lancaster ISD -- including a piece last week concerning the future of district superintendent Larry Lewis, who told The News that he isn't hiding anything and that the audit's just late, simple as that.) And it's doubtful voters will give a thumbs-up to the new bond package: They shot down a $215-million package in November, and six months before that said no to a mere $93.6-million bond election. Splitting the difference might not make any difference at all, till the audit's turned in -- which may come in late April. Or not. Perhaps the dog ate it? --Robert Wilonsky
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