- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 3, 2015

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - An audit of the Joplin School District has traced its declining financial condition to the 2011 tornado that devastated the Joplin area.

The Joplin Globe (https://bit.ly/1zUTGt0 ) reports that the audit revealed post-tornado efforts to build five new schools have led to a funding gap. The 32-page report says that the district has spent about $250 million in disaster recovery as of Dec. 31, 2014, which has caused its general fund balance to drop from $13.3 million in 2012 to a projected $4.6 million at the end of the current fiscal year.

The district has used insurance funds, donations and a $62 million voter-approved bond issue to help pay for rebuilding projects.

At a news conference Monday, Superintendent C.J. Huff said the district had anticipated that its reserve fund would dip to lower-than-average levels because of spending related to tornado recovery and school construction.

The Board of Education has set a goal to slowly rebuild the fund to about three months of operating expenses. However, board president Anne Sharp says a specific plan has not been put into place.

“I know that we’re getting together to do board goals, and one goal will align with our (strategic plan) to build our fund balances,” she said following Monday’s news conference. “That’s a discussion the board needs to have and say where is the money going.”

A question-and-answer session will be held today at the Joplin High School to discuss the audit. Copies of the audit will be available.

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Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, https://www.joplinglobe.com

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