Mingus Union High School District has filed a a claim with Valley Academy for Career and Technology for nearly $394,000.
On March 10, MUHSD sent a letter via its attorney, Susan P. Segal of Gust Rosenfeld. In it, MUHSD alleges that beginning in 2012 VACTE repeatedly failed to adequately reimburse funds generated through enrollment in VACTE’s career and technical programs.
As a Joint Technical Education District, VACTE is a public school system, offering centralized and satellite/school-based programs to Verde Valley high school students and high school-aged individuals. For each student who attends a VACTE course at the satellite campus, Mingus Union High School, funds are allocated and disbursed to both VACTE and MUHSD.
“VACTE engaged in a pattern of underpaying Mingus as required by the agreements between the districts,” Segal said, adding that the agreement between MUHSD and VACTE stipulated a 70-30 percent split of funds generated by satellite enrollment. “Mingus expected that VACTE would pay it the funds to which it was entitled under the agreement [but the] funding Mingus received varies widely without explanation.”
“Instead of the 70-30 split, last year we got only 41 percent of what they owed us,” Jack Keegan, interim superintendent of MUHSD, said.
According Segal, data generated from the Arizona Department of Education led MUHSD to conclude the following:
- In 2012, VACTE overpaid MUHSD nearly $32,000.
- In 2013, VACTE underpaid MUHSD over $101,000.
- In 2014, VACTE underpaid MUHSD over $88,000.
- In 2015, VACTE underpaid MUHSD over $76,000.
- In 2016, VACTE underpaid MUHSD over $159,000.
“Mingus makes a demand for repayment of the $393,986.05 to which it was entitled,” Segal stated. “Mingus seeks to resolve this matter in a way that continues the good working relationship between our Districts but fairly compensates Mingus for the students enrolled in VACTE.”
Keegan met with VACTE Superintendent Bob Weir on March 3 to deliver the news of VACTE’s financial obligation, including a breakdown of the ADE numbers.
“He says, ‘I can’t pay that,’” Keegan said of Weir’s response.
Keegan added that he had thereafter requested a copy of VACTE’s 2015-16 school year audit — a public document that was discussed by the VACTE Governing Board on March 22 — but hadn’t had much luck: “I’ve never seen it. We tried to get it earlier, but we haven’t gotten it.”
“They did not go through the intergovernmental agreement properly,” Weir said. “They were supposed to go through the mediation, which they did not .... I hope we can work together through mediation.”
Weir added, “Since 2008, there is no reference to the 70-30 split. 2007 was the last IGA to mention a 70-30 split.”
According to Weir, VACTE is under no requirement to pay a particular percentage.
“The only requirement is that a JTED cannot pay more [to a district] than the course cost,” Weir said. “[But] this year hope to give them more than their 70 percent .... We are trying, and I believe what we have done this year is outstanding and helpful to the schools.
Weir said that, by involving lawyers on both sides, the process of coming to a resolution is costing VACTE and MUHSD money that would otherwise go to education.