Hearing hears of Imani charter's finances

Posted: July 26, 2013

As the Philadelphia School Reform Commission considers closing a charter school in Germantown, a School District auditor said Wednesday the school had been operating at a loss in each of the last four years.

At a hearing on whether Imani Education Charter School should have its charter renewed, Mayer Krain said the district was especially troubled because the size of the school's losses had been increasing.

He said Imani's annual financial statements showed the school's net assets went from $442,976 in 2009 to a deficit of $767,188 for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2012.

The change was "basically a swing of $1.2 million," Krain said during a daylong session at district headquarters.

Imani, which opened in 1999 and has 460 students from kindergarten through eighth grade, is fighting for its survival.

In May, the SRC began the process of closing it by voting, 4-1, against granting it a new operating agreement on several grounds, including underperforming on state tests. The commission said the school did not have enough qualified teachers and had serious financial problems. Commission member Sylvia Simms cast the dissenting vote.

The SRC's action triggered the hearing that began Tuesday.

An outside attorney presiding over the sessions will issue a report to the SRC, which will take a final vote this year.

Imani will continue to operate through at least the 2013-14 academic year.

On Wednesday, Krain said the school had violated terms of its mortgage agreement and had so little cash on hand, it was at risk of being unable to pay for unforeseen expenses.

James Cella, chief financial officer for OmniVest Properties Management, a Bucks County firm that provides business services to Imani, said the school made its mortgage payments, always met payroll, and had never had to lay off large numbers of staffers.

Cella said an outside auditing firm that prepared the annual financial reports had given the school a clean bill of health.

There were times, though, Cella said, when some creditors and vendors were not paid for 60 days. He said he could not recall which ones.

The hearing continues Thursday at 10 a.m.

Contact Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or at martha.woodall@phillynews.com

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