As the Barbour County Board of Education met for its May meeting, board member Jimmie Fryer raised questions about a drop in the Local Fund balance when a call for approval was sought for the payroll registers for February and March.

After calling for a discussion on the fund balances during the May 11 meeting, Fryer asked, “Why was there a $7,000 drop in the local funds?” The fund called into question had a deficit of $7,321.67 between February and March. February’s balance was reported to be $54,497.83, with March’s balance coming in at $47, 176.16 for the fund.

At the time, Chief School Financial Officer for the county schools, Michelle Ryhnes, could not answer Fryer’s question due to needing to research the fund to see what expenditures were made. She did state during the meeting that the March balance for the fund was due to reallocation of expenditures.

Ryhnes stated in a later email to the Tribune that, “It is my responsibility to effectively control costs through economical utilization of personnel, materials, and equipment. In order to maintain competent analytical financial records, close monitoring of both fixed and variable costs is required. Since local school funding is a blend between state and local dollars, economic shifts require careful attention to the cost implications of management decisions.

“In addition, it requires a structured environment that adheres to our organizational policies and procedures when requesting expense justification. Cost management creates satisfying solutions in conformances to strike a balance between short falls in local funding supported by federal dollars to ensure all students receive a quality education. Typical expenditures for our system include salaries, benefits, utility costs, books, supplies, services and other direct support expenses. Shifting expenditures effectively organize, assemble and arrange expenditure resources to meet the Barbour County System’s goals.”

After Ryhnes had a chance to review the fund and what had been spent from the Local Fund, she reported to Fryer that all the athletic stipends were paid out of that account.

The reporting of accounts two months in arrears during the county school board meetings has been a point of contention with Fryer since the practice started several months.

“My concerns are greater than the balances of accounts — it is the behaviors and management practices that are presently being used in financial matters. I could be wrong, but in my opinion, it is not being financially responsible to spend money and have no idea what you have in the bank,” Fryer wrote in an email to the Tribune. “The board is not receiving the most real time financial reports possible in relation to where we are currently. Receiving financial reports that are two months and eleven days old and not being able to receive answers to pertinent questions about those reports is not a best practice in operating a business at the optimal level above reproaches, especially in a school district.

“The monitoring of finances is crucial to the success of a school system. Money in education is vital to ensure the needs of all students are being met in as many facets as possible. The latitudinal and longitudinal data should be monitored frequently to ensure that we are operating according to budget and that we are being able to forecast financial situations as far in advance as we possibly can. Not receiving financial information from the Central Office in a timely manner is becoming frustrating, which leads to more questions and doubts about the finance of Barbour County School System.”

“I am greatly concerned about the financial situation of Barbour County Schools. The information that I shared in the board meeting was not manufactured by me, but came directly from reports that were provided to me and all board members. It was shared in public meetings by the administration of Superintendent Alexander,” Fryer said. “I will embrace being labeled an alarmist when it comes to anything that jeopardizes the safety and education of our students. In education, it is stressed to make decisions based on the data.”

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