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Willmar School District has positive audit report

Photo by Rand Middleton

WILLMAR — Willmar Public Schools spent $5,545 per student on instruction costs in the past year, nearly $400 more than the 2016 state average.

The Willmar School Board heard a report on the district's annual audit Monday. The audit covers fiscal year 2017, which ended June 30.

Kari Steinbeisser, an accountant with Conway, Deuth and Schmiesing accountants in Willmar, described the district's financial position looking at a variety of factors. She said the auditors issued a "clean opinion," meaning they found no compliance issues and no material weaknesses in the district's internal financial controls.

Regarding the spending on instruction, she said, "It's good; it shows that you're spending that money on your students." Because current numbers are not available yet from the state, Willmar's 2017 numbers were compared with the state's 2016 numbers.

The district's administration costs for fiscal 2017 were about $1,000 per student, about $40 more per student than the state average for 2016.

The district had general fund revenues of $54.75 million and expenditures of $51 million, according to the audit report.

Steinbeisser said the district ended the fiscal year with $10.2 million in its undesignated reserve fund. That's $3.7 million more than projections and about 20 percent of annual expenditures.

The board has a policy of maintaining a balance of at least 6 percent of expenditures, enough to pay expenses for about three weeks. The current balance would pay expenses for about 10 weeks.

"Twenty percent is a good place to be," Steinbeisser said.

Several factors contributed to the higher fund balance, including more revenue due to a change in a special education funding formula and due to higher-than-expected enrollment. Some expenses were less than expected, including legal fees, and the district paid less tuition for students in care and treatment facilities, she said.

Some pension funding changes made by the state also affected the totals in the audit, Steinbeisser said.

State aid made up 85 percent of the district's revenue. Local taxes make up nearly 7 percent and federal sources another 4.4 percent. Other sources such as payments and donations make up the rest.

Salaries and benefits make up nearly 76 percent of expenses. It increased slightly due to labor contract agreements but was tempered somewhat by budget reductions.

Changes in the way the state classifies some expenses led to an increase in supplies and materials and a decrease in capital expenditures.

The food service fund has a balance of about $1.4 million, but spending on equipment in the coming year is expected to decrease that to about $1 million.

In Community Education, a balance of nearly $1.1 million is expected to be used for early education and other expenses in the coming year, bringing it down to an expected $880,000.

"All in all, you are doing well in those funds," Steinbeisser said. "You are taking initiatives to do things that you should be doing with those funds."

Steinbeisser praised Business and Finance Director Pam Harrington and her staff for preparing well for the audit and helping the process run smoothly.

Board member Laura Warne said, "I think the staff needs to be commended for another clean audit; it's a lot of work to prepare for an audit."

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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