A lack of communication between university administration and the Board of Trustees was evident Monday during a teleconference meeting held to discuss the current financial state of the university.
BOT Chairman James Corbin called the meeting to clarify issues surrounding the university not meeting its deadline for turning in financial statements for the fiscal year, which ended June 30. The deadline for turning in the paperwork was Sept. 30, but was extended to Oct. 31 after the university missed its first deadline.
The university missed the Oct. 31 deadline as well.
“Regardless of the reasons, it is unacceptable for our vendors and partners not to be paid because of the financial statements not turned in,” said Trustee Randall Hannah. “We have to do whatever needs to be done to get it turned in now.”
As a result, the state’s Department for Finance Administration stopped payments – with the exception of university payroll – to all university vendors and business partners.
The university hired an outside accounting firm, KPMG, on Sept. 8, to get the statements completed before Sept. 30. The firm was unable to meet the deadline because of unbalanced accounts and the end-of-the-year balance for 2001-2002 not matching the beginning balance for 2002-2003, said Trustee Challis Lowe.
The university has also received help from personnel at Florida State University who are familiar with the software used to complete financial statements.
“We found a situation not ready to be put in format,” Lowe said. ” We found that meetings have taken place and promises made that were broken.”
President Fred Gainous wrote a letter to the Florida Department of Education in October requesting the assistance of the finance office to replace money that is ‘”historically overused” in the Public Education Capital Outlay fund, a funding source for public universities that is used for new construction, remodeling, repair and site improvement of educational facilities. Gainous requested to advance $1.5 million in PECO funds to close a hole in the budget. The university would pay back the amount owed at $25,000 a month from Nov. 1 to June 30, 2004.
The remaining $1.3 million would be paid Sept. 30, 2004 to complete the transaction.
Most of the board members said they were not notified of the university’s financial situation, and were not cognizant of the letter Gainous sent to the Department of Education. Trustee William Jennings said he learned of the matter by reading it in the Tallahassee Democrat.
“I’m not sure if any of the board members knew of this,” Corbin said.He said in a crisis situation in which the university has to request money from the Department of Education the trustees should know about it.Gainous said he did not mention the letter because he thought things would have worked out.
“I simply failed to notify the Board while those discussions were ensuing,” Gainous said.
“We’ve lost a lot of precious time,” said Trustee Pam Duncan. “We’ve lost focus on what we should’ve been doing. We’ve gotten further behind on a deadline that has already passed.”
University officials must turn in the financial statement to the Department for Finance Administration Thursday.
DeAnna L. Carpenter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org