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ACGC audit shows financial stability

GROVE CITY — The 2013 financial audit for the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District showed more positive signs of financial stability.

The board got a review of the financial data at its meeting Monday from Steve Wischmann, from the St. Cloud firm of Kern, DeWenter, Viere.

With growth in the district’s fund balance to a new level of $3 million and a solid cash position, Wischmann said it was a “very good year” for ACGC.

The district grew its fund balance from $2,787,416 last year to $3,046,221 at the end of the 2013 fiscal year.

About one-third of that fund balance is committed and non-spendable.

Having an uncommitted fund balance of $2.2 million, which is 26 percent of the district’s $8.5 million general fund expenditures, will give the district enough money to cover about three months of expenditures.

Just four years ago the district had a fund balance of less than $400,000.

The growth is a “significant improvement,” said Wischmann, adding that a number of school districts he works with have seen a decrease in their fund balance.

ACGC’s fund balance exceeds the district’s policy of maintaining a minimum general fund balance of 20 percent of the annual budget, but Wischmann cautioned that ACGC’s fund balance is “not an excessive amount by any means” and that 25 to 30 percent would be a “comfortable” cushion.

The district has been able to gain financial footing since getting out of statutory operating debt in 2008. A district is in statutory operating debt when its budget deficit exceeds limits set by the state.

ACGC increased its revenues through operating levies and reduced expenditures through a variety of adjustments, including trimming programs and administrative staff, going to a four-day school week and closing a second elementary school building in Cosmos.

In 2013 the district underspent the general fund budget by about $120,000 but overspent in other areas because of the higher-than-expected cost of special education transportation and repairs from storm damage.

At $6.3 million, state sources made up the biggest part of ACGC’s revenues in 2013, followed by $1.4 million in local property taxes. The $1 million in “other” revenue was mostly because of one-time revenue from insurance proceeds for storm damage, said Wischmann.

According to the report, ACGC spent $10,075 per student last year, which is more than other schools of a similar size but less than the statewide average.

Although the district has had a modest increase in the state aid formula, a steady decline of resident students has had a negative pull on ACGC revenues. On the positive side, the net loss of students through open enrollment — the process by which students apply to attend a school outside of their home district — has declined since 2009. And the enrollment figure for September of 762 shows a slight gain of five students over May of this year.

Wischmann praised ACGC for maintaining its instructional budget and gave the district the highest level of assurance possible in an audit.

Meanwhile, the board took action to establish a 2013 — payable 2014 — levy that is the maximum allowed by the state.

The exact dollar figure of that levy will remain fluid while the state filters through the various funding formulas.

Business Manager Dan Tait said by approving the generic term of “maximum” levy, rather than a specific dollar amount, the district won’t box itself into a financial corner. The action is common practice by school districts.

Preliminary figures show the proposed levy could be around $2.3 million, which would be a 3.5 percent decrease from last year.

Tait said that number will fluctuate until the board takes final action in December.

In other action:

n Following the meeting, the board held a closed session to update board members on progress with teacher salary negotiations. No action was taken. Discussion of labor negotiations is allowed in closed session under the state’s Open Meeting Law.

n The board was told that additional antennas will be needed in the high school to provide Internet access to iPads that are now part of the district’s educational system. Broderius said there have been some “glitches” in the system but she is encouraged how teachers are incorporating iPads into classrooms and teachers and students are “not giving up” on the new technology. A new phone system that was installed this summer that provides access to teachers through individual phone extensions and voicemail is also not fully operational.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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