State Auditor sends "rapid response team" to Hattiesburg School District

State Auditor sends "rapid response team" to Hattiesburg School District

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - A memo from the Mississippi Department of Education has forced State Auditor Stacey Pickering to send a rapid response team to audit the Hattiesburg Public School District.

Pickering said his rapid response audit team had "boots on the ground" this week investigating the Hattiesburg Public School District's "finances and management practices."

Through a public records request, Seven on Your Side obtained the letter from State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright to Pickering asking him to address this "critical matter."

The letter says two MDE staff members reviewed the district's finances and "concluded with a preliminary determination that the district would end the 2016 fiscal year with a deficit in the district's general fund. Furthermore, this preliminary review determined that the district may actually deplete all available cash at some point during the current fiscal year and be unable to pay current obligations, to include payroll."

Wright also notes that the district's ending general fund balance showed "an 88 percent decrease in the general fund balance" from 2012 to 2015.

"Of even greater concern is that the majority of this decrease ($3,376,986) occurred during the 2015 fiscal year," Wright continues. "Additionally the district secured a $7,000,000 tax anticipation note (TAN) in August of 2015. Of the $7,000,000 loan proceeds the district has already spent $6,000,000."

Seven on Your Side has requested an on camera interview with interim superintendent  Greg Ladner Friday. HPSD spokesperson Jas N Smith said Ladner was not immediately unavailable, but would interview on Monday.