NEW LENOX – Lincoln-Way School District 210’s superintendent disputed criticism that district officials concealed the true nature of the district’s finances despite resisting the release of a bleak report from about three years ago.
District officials Monday released a 2014 report from PMA Financial Network that projected the district would accumulate deficits exceeding $10 million between fiscal years 2015 and 2019. The report also accurately projected the district would fall into the state’s financial watch status in 2015.
The report was released only after the Illinois Attorney General’s Office determined it was not exempt under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.
When asked why the report was kept from the public until after it was ruled not to be exempt for disclosure under FOIA, Superintendent Scott Tingley reiterated it was because the report was deemed an internal planning document to be used for contract negotiations and personnel changes.
Tingley said in dealing with hundreds of FOIA requests over the years, district officials have remained consistent on whether to release records based on their usage and that there are records used for planning that have not been released.
He argued district officials have not hidden the true condition of the district because of the $1 million in cost reductions made in spring 2014 where cuts were made to art, music, social science and JROTC programs.
“As it turned out, they weren’t enough,” Tingley said.
The district was not effective at managing its business operations in 2014 and improvements have been made since then, Tingley said. He said he “walked into a difficult situation” and the finances of the district were unfortunate.
He said the district never came close to the projected deficits in 2014 and referred to the June 11, 2015, report from PMA Financial Network that showed lower projected budget deficits.
“This is one look and certainly when we did it again the next year, it was a much better estimate of where we’d be moving,” Tingley said of the 2014 report.
He said the report was shared with board members about the time it was presented. Calls and messages to former board members Kevin Molloy, Dee Molinare, Christopher Kosel and current board member Christine Glatz, all of whom were on the board at the time, were not immediately returned.
When asked if the 2014 report should have been disclosed earlier, Board President Joe Kirkeeng said report became available when it was determined to be available and district officials chose not to appeal the Illinois Attorney General’s Office’s determination.
He said he wasn’t there when past board members were privy to the report.
“All I can deal with is what we have presently in front of us,” Kirkeeng said.
He said in light of the report’s release, he’s instructed Tingley to review past FOIA requests that have been appealed to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office and see if they can be fulfilled.