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McCurdy Charter School Misses Budget Deadlines

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In the past year. McCurdy Charter School officials have consistently failed to submit on time budgetary reports to the state Public Education Department.

The Department placed McCurdy on monthly reporting status May 21 for failing to submit any of their quarterly reports, as well as their Fiscal Year 2020 budget, on time, according to a previous Rio Grande SUN story.

At the time, McCurdy’s business manager, Deanna Gomez, said issues with the software and staffing changes caused the delays and that delays would not continue since those problems had been addressed.

Since then, however, the School’s reporting issues have only worsened.

For four consecutive meetings, McCurdy’s Governance Board has been unable to approve their budget for the end of the fiscal year, either because meetings were canceled or Gomez failed to produce the reports by the time the Board met.

School officials have now developed a corrective action plan in order to be more compliant with the Department’s deadline.

 Canceled meeting

The Board was originally scheduled to discuss and approve its end-of-year financials during its July 18 meeting. The agenda for the meeting included a line item where Gomez was scheduled to speak before the Board about the budget.

However, the meeting was ultimately canceled because not enough Board members said they could attend, and therefore they could not reach quorum, School Director Sarah Tario said.

A notice of cancellation was posted on McCurdy’s Facebook page around an hour before the meeting was set to start.

While it is unclear what the Board knew before the meeting, Gomez still had not submitted any of the quarterly reports from Fiscal Year 2019, Department Budget Analyst Vince Vigil, who handles all of McCurdy’s finances, said. The quarter one report had been due to the Department since September 2018.

While the Department does not require end-of-year reports to be submitted until Aug. 2, Gomez had not completed them in time for the Board’s July meeting.

 ‘Next time’

The agenda for the Board’s Aug. 1 meeting also included a presentation from Gomez to present end-of-year financials. This time, enough Board members showed up for a meeting to take place.

However, Gomez did not speak before the Board at all and instead gave Tario a message to present to the public.

“She believes next time she’ll have end of year, beginning of year and also hopefully July financials,” she said.

The School’s first monthly report, which covered July 2019, was due to the Department in less than a month. End-of-year financials were due to the Department the next day.

School Budget and Finance Analysis Bureau Director David Craig sent a memo to all superintendents and business managers on June 28, writing that all final reports were due by Aug. 2. and included a list of all documents to be included in the submittal.

The Board and Tario agreed that the budgets would be discussed at their next meeting in two weeks time.

‘Nightmare’

At the beginning of the Aug. 15 meeting, Board Chairperson Deborah Bennett Anderson asked Tario if they would be hearing from Gomez about the status of the School’s financial reports.

Tario said Gomez still had not finished the reports. Bennett Anderson then asked if they could speak to Gomez over a conference call.

With all six Board members speaking to a landline in the middle of the conference room, Bennett Anderson asked Gomez why none of the reports were ready for them to see.

Gomez said that she had been stumped by recurring errors while calculating revenues.

“Everything should get better from now on,” she said.

She then said she should be ready to upload the reports to the Department soon afterward, but did not give a specific time.

“When should we expect some reports?” Bennett Anderson asked. “I appreciate that you’re going to give them to PED, but when are you going to give them to us?”

Gomez asked if she could give the Board a report for each quarter at the next meeting, instead of one report covering the entire fiscal year, and that they could discuss each individually at a special meeting.

“There’s a lot going on at the moment, so I want to put something together that you can understand,” she said.

Board members refused this option and told her to give them one end-of-the-year financial report.

“We’ve got to close this out,” Bennett Anderson said.

Gomez said she would have those reports ready by the next meeting on Sept. 5.

She did not tell the Board that night that she still had not submitted any of the quarterly reports due the previous fiscal year. It is unclear if the Board already knew about these delays.

The next day, Gomez submitted the first quarter report, 10 months after its original due date. Three days later, she submitted her quarter two and three reports.

When asked in an interview if the July monthly report would be submitted on time, Tario said “it better be.”

Gomez assured the Board that the worst part was behind them.

“The nightmare is almost over,” she said.

 ‘Working on it’

Before any Board members arrived at the Sept. 5 meeting, Tario said they would not be discussing end-of-year financials, which again were listed on the agenda, along with the July 2019 monthly report. She also said the reports Gomez had said would be ready were still not finished.

When asked why the reports were so late, Tario said she had no comment.

“It’s not a question I can answer well for you,” she said, then saying, “We’re working on it, that’s what I can tell you.”

Tario serves on McCurdy’s Finance Committee, along with Gomez and Board Members Bennett Anderson and Nancy O’Bryan. She said Gomez would be the best person to ask why the reports were late, but that she may not want to comment.

Tario was then asked how the public would know about the state of McCurdy’s finances if no one from the School would talk about them.

“That’s a complex question,” she said. “Do I think the public should know about our finances? Absolutely. It’s their money. They absolutely should know.”

Part of the meeting packet included a corrective action plan, in which the Finance Committee provided a list of dates they would be submitting documents in the future.

The document read that the Committee “(recognizes) that required PED reporting is currently out of compliance.” A Rio Grande SUN reporter picked up a copy of the plan, which was laying on one of the tables in the middle of the room.

While Bennett Anderson, O’Bryan and Board Member Juan Valdez all showed up for the meeting, it soon became clear they would not have enough members to hold the meeting.

Bennett Anderson read text messages from Board members Chris Martinez and Adán Trujillo, who is also the Rio Arriba County attorney. Martinez asked if there was a meeting that night and said he was stuck at work. Trujillo said he thought the meeting was on Thursday (9/12) and that he could not make it.

“This meeting has been canceled,” Bennett Anderson said, making it the second in four meetings canceled due to a lack of quorum.

Immediately after the cancellation, Tario demanded the SUN return its copy of the corrective action plan.

“If I had known there wasn’t going to be a meeting tonight, I wouldn’t have given it to you,” she said, further arguing it would be inappropriate for the SUN to see the document before other Board members.

When the SUN reporter refused, the Board members in attendance also demanded the reporter return the document. Valdez attempted to argue that it was not a public document because it was never part of a public document and was not obtained through a public records request.

State law does not require documents to be a part of a public meeting or a records request in order to be available to the public. State law defines a public record, among other things, as a document created by or on behalf of a public body that relates to public business.

The document states that the School would submit its quarter four report the next day, on Sept. 6 and its July monthly report on Monday.

Vigil wrote in an email that Gomez submitted the quarter report three days late on Monday and that he had not received any report for the month of July.

“The NMPED School Budget Bureau is concerned about failure to meet deadlines and is working with McCurdy to determine a path that will get them back on track with our timelines,” Deputy Secretary of Finance and Operations Adan Delgado said in a written statement.

Bennett Anderson could not be reached for comment. 

When Gomez was reached by phone, she said she would only take questions by email. She said there have been continuous delays because she has been transferring all of McCurdy’s financial information into the new software.

Vigil said in a phone interview that, in his experience, software issues take around a couple weeks to resolve, not several months.

Gomez said she plans to turn in the July monthly report by Wednesday (9/11) at 8 a.m., and that the corrective action plan will prevent future delays.

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