A local school district is facing a decade of struggling credit after a missing the deadline on a payment to the state.
While work is underway to prevent that harsh penalty, work may be needed to mend the issues lurking within the district itself.
Saginaw Public Schools missed the payment deadline on August 21, but the school board wasn't informed until just last week - leading to concerns over transparency and communication within the district.
"I'm not concerned about it because they were working on fixing it. And if they fixed it before they bring it to us that's fine with me,” said Ruth Ann Knapp, a trustee for the school board.
Knapp said she didn't know about a late loan payment that led to a negative report on the district's credit rating until last week.
The district missed the deadline for making the payment by only minutes. Board President Rudy Patterson said he was concerned board members weren't told about the missed payment until this week. Knapp sees things differently.
"I'm a proponent of let's take care of it and avoid crisis and then report how everything came down the pike,” Knapp said.
The district's decision to wait until the payment due date, coupled with a litany of failed attempts to wire the money by Huntington Bank, resulted in missing the payment deadline.
Now, the school system is working with the state and bank to lessen any damage to its credit rating. The district also said they won't wait until the last minute to make loan payments in the future.
Board meeting gets heated
The school board met Wednesday night, where the missed payment deadline was discussed for about an hour.
Patterson said he wanted somebody to be held accountable for the new bad credit rating. A lot of fire came down on Executive Director of Finance Tamara Johnson, who was at the meeting.
Patterson even asked Johnson to step down from her position.
"Two things that schools that dissolve have in common - a steady loss of enrollment, and a bad credit rating. And Mrs. Johnson's error in judgment has cost this community for a period of time. These and many more details as this is not the first incident in the finance department under her leadership," Patterson said.
Other board members defended Johnson, saying it was a simple mistake.
Some board members said Patterson went too far.
""What just happened today - we are embarrassing a staff member based on a mistake. And it wasn't just her mistake. It was Huntington's mistake. And at the end of the day because the board takes so much pleasure, it was our mistake. This is our mistake," said Tamara McCrae, a school board member.
Board members pointed out the board doesn't have the power to ask anyone to resign.
Patterson said he just wants to ensure the district survives.
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