The Case of the Mysterious Bottom Line: Solved

About six years into the state takeover, the Oakland school district finally knows how much money it really has — or, in this case, how much it doesn’t have.

A team of fiscal sleuths, which the school board hired last May, spent months trying to reconcile various accounts (Read more here).

Their findings? The district has $5.6 million less in its general fund than it thought. There’s also a $9 million deficiency in the payroll liability account, bringing the grand total to $14.6 million.

Maybe it’s a good thing former state administrator Randolph Ward drew down the last $35 million of the $100 million state loan in case of emergency. The district might have to use it. That, or borrow cash from other funds.

You can find the presentation here, which explains how the mess came about. It will be discussed at Wednesday’s board meeting. Here’s the full agenda and a link to a Trib story about the latest development.

image from Carla216’s photostream at flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • ProStudent

    I know this is ample fodder for more OUSD bashing but I think this is something that we can actually be proud of . . . knowing how much money we have is the first step to spending more wisely, being more fiscally responsible, and planning appropriately. Thank you to the team who made that happen (maybe those are outside contractors who actually deserve their money).

  • Robert

    It takes the board 5 years after the takeover due to financial mismanagement to hire somebody to figure out where the money is, and that audit figures out there is even less money than thought, and you consider that something to be proud of?! All it shows to me is that board still should not be allowed to manage the money.

  • Katy Murphy

    To be fair, the school board was mostly powerless during those five years and was often kept in the dark about the district’s finances.

  • cranky teacher

    I’ll say what Katy was too polite to say: You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about Robert. The school board is just re-entering the scene. The state was in control of the finances.

  • localed

    Say what you will about the OUSD Board, but they do not seem competent to me and we should be very nervous about full local control until an intelligent and open-minded board is elected, especially a level-headed board president. (Spearman is off her rocker). Until then, we should be so blessed to have the help of Sacramento.

  • Jack Gerson

    So let’s get this straight. The state comes in and takes over the school district, supposedly to put the district’s finances in order. Then, under the state receivership, they use the pretext of “fiscal responsibility” to justify closing schools, closing libraries, eliminating electives, laying off school custodians, maintenance workers, food service workers, etc. And now it turns out that they — the state administration — close to doubled the original debt. Where did the money go? Perhaps the $77 million in this year’s budget for consulting and outsourcing contracts provides a clue. The state wants to pull out and leave the district in a hole twice as deep as when they came in six years ago. The least they could do is to cancel that part of the district’s debt run up under the state administration.


    i believe that they should cut all the top officials pay checks, all they do is walk around anyway. then tahey should give te teachers and instructional assistance raises that i know for a fact that they are making the same pay from the nineties, also give the kids some books.
    we need to think about the kids not the 6 digit ballers that sit around and talk about golf, if the instructors are under paid, then thats all the energy they are going to put into the students.
    also fire those incompetents in the payroll dept hire out to the people that actually go to school for the job (adp) for example.
    thank you

  • Judy

    Not only are they fiscally incompetent, how about asking the district what happened to the missing high school transcripts from 1989-1991. Students looking for these transcripts to further their education are out of luck!

  • TheTruthHurts

    Wow! Just Wow!! Can you smell it? That stench! I can’t tell if it’s coming from Oakland or Sacramento, but it stinks REAL bad.

    This has got to be the biggest outrage of them all. Five years into a financially-motivated takeover and they just reconcile cash and it’s the Board that hires the auditor. Wow!


    I know what my handle says – The Truth Hurts – but this is ridiculous. I don’t believe in witch hunts, which is what they’ll get at next Board meeting, but maybe I should make an exception.

    Let’s just hope there was nothing criminal done with the money. The last thing Oakland needs is another scandal.

    Why again should I send my kids to OUSD?

  • Mahogany Blue

    In 2007, Maxwell Park International Academy was formed under the Small Schools umbrella. District officials promised to assist the Principal and her staff in preparing students to become global citizens. We tried to have the school exterior repainted , but couldn’t because district contractors wanted $50,000 to do it. For two years I’ve heard “we don’t know where the money went”, but the children are stiil suffer lacking equity in education. The entire board should be indited and replaced. There salaries only got bigger since the takeover. The children have been left to pay for moneys stolen by adults. The clicks and gangs of the OUSD office must be brought to justice or we will a very destructive future filled with youth not ready for the global workforce. You want to know where the money went check the pockets of union leaders, ethics of board members, and the greivences filed by teachers who have no business in the classroom. OUSD should not be trusted in what is turning out to be a RICO violation $115,000,000. Check OUSD contracts since 1999.

  • Nextset

    Well, thay can’t manage education and they can’t manage money either. I’m not surprised. I hope the Charters manage their money better. I see the Charters are taking over “education” in OUSD territory.

  • Jim Mordecai


    Fact check: 1) The School Board has been replaced by a State administration for the last six years. 2) The School Board’s salary was zero under the State take-over until this year when it was given back most of its former responsibilities. In January the Board tried to increase their salary to the maximum allowed under State law but since the Board’s finance is still managed by the State they could not increase their salary and the State Administrator did not try to increase the Board’s salary. 3) Totally agree with your point that the children “have been left to pay…”

    Here is an unfairness not the fault of the Board but of the legislature and their education code. Certain OUSD schools mismanaged their instructional minutes and an audit found that certain schools did not have their students attend the state’s minimum required instructional minutes. The Ed Code redresses the lack of instructional minutes by making future OUSD students’ that attend a school with shorted instructional minutes make up that shortage times two. The teachers, students, and even administrator may not have been at the school but they must make up for the administrative screw-up. Not a fair system when the adults screw-up and future enrolled students must pay.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Chauncey

    Damn! Where do you start?!

    So the only way the OUSD cronies can argue this terrible story is to say that the board has not controlled the finances- the state has? Damn! Thats so lame its pathetic!

    Well what brought the state to Oakland in the first place? Oh I dont know, say the biggest public education bailout in the history of CA? 150 million in the hole, and they still will not learn!

    As you all know but may too politicaly correct to say, or are just joined at the hip with the OEA, OUSD has no cure!

  • harlemmoon

    HAHAHAHAH! The joke is on every idiot who has any faith in the school district, the board or the state.
    This is a HIGHLY politicized situation where reason, clear thought and above-board actions are expressly rejected. If ANY of you actually believe this was ever simply about the money, you have been terribly misinformed.
    One program note: many of the same board members today are the ones who were keeping watch when the state took over.

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