Brockton begins new school year as interim superintendent shuts down rumors around $14M deficit

BROCKTON, Mass. — Brockton Public Schools students begin the new school year Wednesday, just days after officials revealed that there was $14 million missing from the district’s 2022-2023 budget.

After a marathon four-hour meeting with the Brockton School Committee last Thursday, Mayor Robert Sullivan told reporters that they had discovered a $14 million budget shortfall and that Superintendent Mike Thomas had taken medical leave.

One day after Sullivan shared the news, school committee members voted unanimously during an executive meeting to hire an outside firm to perform an independent audit of the school’s finances. Dr. James Cobbs was also named interim superintendent while Thomas is on medical leave.

Sullivan, who serves as the chair of the Brockton School Committee, said that he is “extremely dismayed” but committed to fixing the situation.

Although Thomas was not in attendance at the initial executive session, he told Boston 25 News that there was no criminal activity involved.

“A narrative that money is missing or embezzled is absolutely absurd, every dime can be accounted for and every dime went toward students,” Thomas said. “It’s not gone. It’s overspent in the areas of safety, security, transportation, over staff but there’s nothing missing.”

On Tuesday, on the eve of the new school year, Cobbs’ office shared a document titled “frequently asked questions regarding the BPS FY23 budget deficit.”

In response to “Is $14.4 million missing?”, Cobbs’ wrote, “A deficit occurs when expenses exceed revenues. In this instance, the existence of a deficit means that district spending exceeded the approved budget by approximately $14.4 million in FY2023.”

Cobbs also assured families of students that the deficit won’t impact the current school year. He also noted that neither the district nor Sullivan’s office has been in contact with any law enforcement entity regarding the deficit.

“Regrettably, this is a rumor that spread Thursday night just as the Committee entered its first executive session about the deficit and it has impacted the lens through which our community is now viewing this matter. The public should expect regular updates as the audit begins, but we urge everyone to refrain from sharing information that doesn’t come directly from the School Committee, Mayor Sullivan’s Office, or the Committee’s designees,” Cobb added.

Back in May, the school district eliminated 130 staff positions after facing an $18 million deficit. The district attributed some of the shortfall to dwindling enrollment due to the pandemic.

Additional details on the audit will be released as they become available.

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