Commission to treasurer: Straighten out financial records
By JORDAN COHEN
The Financial Planning and Supervision Commission was openly critical Monday of what members indicate is inadequate record keeping and budgetary information provided by school district Treasurer Lori Hudzik.
After an 85-minute executive session, the commission ordered Hudzik to provide the records necessary for preparation and implementation of the financial recovery plan “in a timely manner.” Niles schools have been in state-declared fiscal emergency since late February and the plan is required by state law.
The panel could not pose questions to the treasurer in person because Hudzik did not attend the meeting. There was no explanation for her absence and no one asked for one during the public session.
“I don’t know why she didn’t come,” said schools Superintendent Ann Marie Thigpen when asked by The Vindicator.
Commission Chairman Bob Foss declined to specify a time limit for Hudzik to comply.
The commission wants to know why Hudzik has had to rely on state-appointed fiscal supervisors to reconcile bank statements and why her revenue projections are incomplete and inconsistent. Nita Hendryx, one of the supervisors, said the treasurer blamed a “software issue” for her difficulties.
The commission appeared skeptical.
“We need financials from the software system,” said the commission’s Giovanne Merlo, Niles city auditor. “That has to get done.”
“Without [the financial information], it is hard if not impossible to get this district headed in the right direction,” said Robert Swauger, another commission member.
The commission found itself forced to limit its approval of appropriations for the next fiscal year to only “one-sixth” of the amount submitted by the treasurer until the information can be updated.
In addition, the panel had to revise the food service budget, listed by the treasurer as exceeding $1.3 million, but actually around $557,000.
“The commission is not happy with the bookkeeping practices taking place,” said Mary Ann McMahon, board of education president. “This puts the superintendent in a very awkward position, and it’s not her fault.”
The Vindicator asked Foss if he believes in light of the financial issues that Hudzik should resign.
“I don’t have enough information to answer that,” Foss replied. “I think that’s a personal decision.”
Under state law, the commission has the authority to remove a school treasurer or superintendent from office.
The board of education is scheduled to meet Wednesday.