Brockton schools owe almost $1 million for expired grant spending

BROCKTON — Brockton Public Schools owes nearly $1 million to the state in expired grant money that has been used to fund various school programs and salaries after the grants’ end dates while the accounts were never closed out, according to school business office officials.

Trish Boyer, interim school business office administrator, said 44 grants have passed their expiration date but were never closed out by members of the school business team, and those grants are still being charged to pay for school-related items. Boyer said some of these grants date back to 2010.

Boyer and her team have started closing out the old grant accounts and have so far closed at least 15. Brockton Public Schools is required to return all the money spent after each grant expired to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), for a grand total of roughly $960,000.

The district has already paid back about $250,000 of the owed cash for the 15 grants that have recently been closed, Boyer said at the April 9 Brockton School Committee meeting.

“We’re giving money back, but we have no money,” said Joyce Asack, Ward 6 School Committee member. “We’re giving money back that we don’t have.”

Brockton Public Schools projected that it will end the current fiscal year with a budget deficit of roughly $25 million, which comes after an $18.3 million deficit in fiscal year 2023. School district officials have been racing to plug the hole and alleviate the shortfall as the deadline of June 30 rapidly approaches.

“I am so angry right now,” school committee member Ana Oliver said at the meeting.

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What happened?

According to a February 2024 review of Brockton Public Schools’ finances by data analytics firm Open Architects, “grants were not properly set up, managed or closed” in the school district’s budget system Munis.

“Grants were often set up in Munis based solely on the district’s application for the grant, as opposed to when the grant was approved and awarded,” the Open Architects report said. “Even after grants were approved and awarded, the total award amount was never reconciled in Munis. This resulted in grant managers spending inaccurate grant budgets during the life of the grant.”

“When a grant reached its end date, the grant budget in Munis was never closed and recurring expenses would continue to be charged to grant beyond its expiration date,” the report said.

Boyer said grant makers did not coordinate with the school’s human resources, finance or payroll departments when entering their grants into Munis.

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Now, the district must return all the cash spent through each grant after they expired, with amounts ranging from “a few dollars” to “tens of thousands of dollars,” Boyer said.

“This was a shock,” Asack said. “It’s frustrating. It’s like every day there’s something new.”

Business officials lacked experience

The team that oversees the district’s grant accounts is comprised of a grant administrator and several grant managers, who each track between one and five grants to ensure funds are spent correctly. Boyer said the grant managers generally lacked experience working with grants and one manager resigned in December.

Boyer said the budget mistakes ultimately were caused by “people not paying attention to detail.”

In addition, the grant administrator position is currently vacant. While the team is thin, Acting Superintendent James Cobbs said Boyer and Deputy Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Sharon Wolder are “doing their best” to fill in.

At the April 9 school committee meeting, Oliver called the situation “heartbreaking.”

“They have done such a disservice to our kids. This is despicable,” she said. “Moving forward we need to have better qualified people in those departments. This is why we continue to get into the situation we are.”


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