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Gainesville City Schools eliminates $6.5M deficit
Board will discuss audit findings at tonight's meeting
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Gainesville City Schools Board Meeting

When: 7 tonight
Where: Gainesville City School Board Office, 508 Oak St. NW, Gainesville

Three years ago, the Gainesville City Schools Board had a $6.5 million deficit.

Tonight at the school board meeting, auditors plan to announce the board is officially out of that deficit. It's an announcement board members are elated about after the controversy surrounding the deficit.

"We thought we had a lot of money," Superintendent Merrianne Dyer recalled.

"As (Janet Allison, Gainesville City Schools Board's chief financial officer) kept working, she found out how bad it was. It was like two years' back finances were not closed."

The discovery of the deficit led to then-Superintendent Steve Ballowe being fired from the system. Dyer, who was the principal at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School, was hired as interim superintendent, then made permanent.

The deficit shrunk during the 2009 fiscal year to $5.6 million, and a discovery of a city tax bill error further reduced the deficit.

"During the last fiscal year '10 and '11, we have pulled out of deficit. We had a small fund balance in '10 and we have a good one in '11," Dyer said.

Being out of deficit means the school board is no longer under state supervision, but Dyer plans to continue the detailed monitoring of school board spending to keep it from happening again.

"Every day for the last three years, I spent the end of the day on software approving purchases," she said. "You're just much more careful about the money that way."

Though the budget audit is the star of tonight's meeting, the agenda also has room for principals to outline and present strategic plans to the school board, as well as a technology audit.

"In our staff surveys for a number of years there's been a low to moderate satisfaction with our services in technology," Dyer said.

In response, the school board conducted a two-part audit looking at its technology systems and how faculty use technology. Dyer said the board is planning an "aggressive improvement plan" to address any issues.

Also up for approval at the meeting is the renewal of the intergovernmental parks and recreation agreement Gainesville schools have with the city government.

"We negotiate it every two to three years. Our last one expired June 30," Dyer said. "We're presenting one to the board for five years. We share the facilities and that's helped keep us from having to build parks."

The agreement allows the city to use school facilities for programs and schools can use city athletic fields.

Dyer hinted there might be another part to the intergovernmental agreement involving a property exchange, but said she could not comment further.

"Both of these agreements still have to go to Gainesville city for approval," Dyer said. "They would not really involve any more money on our part."


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