BULLHEAD CITY — Members of the Colorado River Union High School Board couldn’t agree Monday night on how to proceed on filling a short-term funding gap based significantly on expenses related to COVID-19.
Members voted 2-2 on whether to approve increasing the district’s credit line by $500,000.
The district is looking at an overall shortfall of more than $700,000 just less than a quarter of the way through the current fiscal year.
However, some board members were especially displeased to find out that roughly $100,000 of that shortfall was coming from the Anderson Auto Group Fieldhouse.
The operation was expected to be in the black but erroneous bookkeeping inadvertently concealed a deficit and made the operation appear to be ahead by about $92,000 come budget time.
Both the CRUHSD and fieldhouse budgets were approved by the board in mid-July. Normally, area public school districts complete their spending plans for the upcoming fiscal year before that year begins, which is July 1. But, with COVID-19 causing the state legislature to be in recess for months, school districts were struggling with the budget process this time around.
Fieldhouse General Manager Ed Catalfamo told board members he made the original error by using the wrong column in a budget document. CRUHSD Business Manager Roni Hart explained that she didn’t catch the error initially but discovered it during her subsequent budget reconciliation process — a review of transactions and related documents as well as the time for resolving discrepancies.
Some board members also were especially distressed to find out that the Mohave County Treasurer’s office had sent an email to Hart on Aug. 18 expressing concern about the credit line having reached more than $1.246 million. By this time last year, credit line use was at less than $800,000.
CRUHSD routinely asks for a short-term credit line to cover the portion of each year when funding doesn’t come as quickly as anticipated. That can happen for a variety of reasons, such as when grants or other government funds don’t arrive as soon as anticipated.
COVID-19 is attributed for more funding issues, such as a lag in receiving CARES Act funds. State funding also is $188,000 less than what was expected, said Hart and Supt. Todd Flora.
The request this time was for a credit line of up to $2 million, however, instead of the more recent $1.5 million credit lines sought through Wells Fargo.
Board members Richard Cardone and Carey Fearing both voted against the move, citing concerns about not only how the situation looks to the public but also whether it was OK to co-mingle funds between the district and fieldhouse.
They both peppered Hart with numerous questions about the credit line and the finance process itself.
Cardone asked why this seemed to be unique to CRUHSD because all school districts are dealing with COVID-19.
Fearing said the process itself needs to be more proactive.
If it were such a difficulty for school districts, Cardone said, similar emails would be going to school districts “across the country.”
Hart explained that inquiring about the credit line increase possibility was to allow the board the option to do so.
Board President Kerry Burgess expressed concern about not moving forward with the credit line expansion because the district might not be able to meet staff payroll, which is supposed to be processed next week.
Board member Lori Crampton concurred with Burgess about waiting and noted that because the district owns the fieldhouse that this remedy isn’t a co-mingle.
Both advised Cardone and Fearing to approve the credit line increase as suggested by staff.
The board is expected to return soon to decide on how to address the immediate shortfall. It will look at the district’s budget again when it meets in October.