School district receives favorable audit report

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 12/8/99.

Better than expected revenues and lower expenditures made for a favorable audit report for the Paynesville Area School District. Al Habben, district auditor, presented the 1998-99 school audit to the Paynesville Area School Board at their meeting on Nov. 23.

"We deficit spent last year and I was surprised how well the funds were managed and we are still in the black. We are not spending unnecessarily, we are being efficient as we can in order to provide quality education for the students," he said.

Overall, the district had budgeted expenditures over revenues by about $1,102,445 for the 1998-99 school year. The actual budget amount came in at $250,465, according to the audit report. For this school year, expenditures exceed district income by about $552,558.

The Paynesville Area School District's revenues were up .70 percent from last year. The district revenues for 1998-99 were $7,783,957. Items which affect the revenues include property taxes, state and federal aid, and other local sources.

"We came out better than anticipated," superintendent Howard Caldwell told the board. "The staff did not spend all that was available and we underestimated our revenues for the year. Revenues are getting harder to judge and more complicated to figure each year," Caldwell added.

Reasons given for the higher than expected revenue balance in the general fund ($320,239 increase) were that the district had underestimated the student count, received more tax dollars, and received more funds from other districts for special needs students.

Caldwell said, "We budgeted an income of $60,000 and actually received $91,000 for special needs students. Another area of unexpected funds was interest income. Little by little all the different funds added up. At least we didn't do the reverse, expect a large amount and spent what wasn't there."

Expenditures last year were down 2.9 percent or $242,160 from the previous year. Expenditures include: teacher salaries, transportation contracts, custodial services, pupil support services, building maintenance, and educational supplies.

Caldwell explained the expenditures were down because a major roof project did not cost as much as anticipated. "We retained $125,000 from the roof project and there was about $100,000 in compensatory revenue not spent. In staff development, there was $35,000 not used. A little here and there adds up," he added.

Caldwell wasn't happy with how far he was off from his estimates. "I would like to have been closer. I'll have to take another look at the budget process and try to manage it tighter."

Caldwell added, "It is difficult to get a clear handle on the budget as there are so many unknown factors. We are reliant upon outside sources for so much of our funds."

Caldwell explained that each year, the district has been adding or enhancing programs which have resulted in lower fund balance. "We added a Spanish program and a full scale technology upgrade which took more than $100,000 from the budget. Last year, we spent about $400,000 to upgrade technology within the district. This included wiring the district buildings for the Internet, connecting the buildings together with fiber optics, and purchasing new computers to name a few items. We have made tremendous strides to assist teachers in improving the students learning environment," Caldwell said.

"We keep trying to improve on programs as we go along. The district has had to deficit spend ($300,000 to $400,000) to upgrade the facilities, but we still have a positive fund balance.

The district has a fund balance of $1,218,773 at the end of the 1998-99 school year. This compares to $1,424,239 at the end of the 1997-98 school year and down from $1,928,901 at the end of the 1996-97 school year.

Caldwell said of all the figures, he concentrates on the general fund balance the most, $825,000 at the end of the 1998-99 school year. At the end of the 1997-98 school year there was a $1.14 million fund balance.

"There is no set amount that a district is required to have as a fund balance. I like to have at least two months operating expenses ($1.2 million) in the bank," he said.

"I don't want to see the district continue to slide in a negative direction. We are cautiously looking at programs. Due to declining enrollment and increased salary schedules, our dollars are not increasing. However, I am optimistic that we will see more revenue this year than last year," Caldwell added. He explained he always presents a worse case scenario before the board because he doesn't want to over budget."

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