On November 25, right before Thanksgiving, the Watertown-Mayer School Board held their monthly meeting to discuss end-of-the year topics. One of the bigger topics was the year’s audit.
Caroline Stutsman from Bergen KDV, the auditing company the school works with, presented on the year’s audit. The presentation started off with good news, as Stutsman stated that the district had received an “unmodified opinion” from the previous year, which according to her is the best possible opinion as it means the district is doing very well every year.
For the district, the largest funding source comes from the general education fund the state provides, according to Stutsman. The audit is done to assess how well the district and state managed these funds, by looking at factors such as “pupil units” (enrollment) out of residents (possible enrollment), and more. Of course each is broken down and “more complex than that,” according to Stutsman.
“In addition to looking at the numbers, we also conducted our audit in accordance to government auditing standards” she followed up. “Meaning we considered internal controls.”
Despite a 3 percent increase to general revenues due a facilities bond levy coming to an end in 2018, data from the audit showed that Watertown-Mayer receives on average less revenue than districts in the same size category. Stutsman stated that there are a lot of factors at play in determining where a school sits with the average, as it’s “not an apples-to-apples comparison.” Factors such as Special Education, compensation needs, federal funding based on needs, and more can change a school’s funding.
As for spending, the audit shows that “you never spend beyond your revenues” according to Stutsman, meaning the school is not, nor has not in the last four years, spent beyond its budget. So while expenditures are increasing, they aren’t increasing beyond the budget increases.
Breaking it down a little further, Stutsman showed the various fund balances the district has, which is simply whatever is left over that’s put into a balance for future use. The general fund balance continues to see an increase, this year with an increase of just a bit over $680,000, bringing the balance to just over $3.18 million. This, according to Stutsman, is really good for the district, as it’s bringing them closer to their needs as well as the state average for districts of their size for fund balances.
As for the food service fund, both revenues and expenditures are down with a reduction of students participating in the breakfast program. The food service fund had a fund balance of a little over $100,000 at June 30 of this year. The community service fund is also in the green, even with all the new programs, at over $354,000 in its fund balance.
“All of the components of this fund are positive, and that’s not always the case, so this is good to see,” said Stutsman.
Lisa Raiter, district financial advisor, the came up to the podium to show how the district compares to the state average in many expenditure aspects. Some of these aspects include administrative services, student support, activities and more.
On average, the school was under the state average in most categories, with the exception of student activities. Raiter explained that with the addition of the robotics program and purchasing equipment for them, the expenditures did go up and are currently above average, but still within the district’s budget. And next year, 2020, it should go back down as there won’t a need to buy all new equipment for the robotics program every year. The other category that was above was the vocational teachings, and that was because of new hires, according to Raiter.
The school district also had above average expenditures for their community service programs, which is consistent with the four previous years. According to Raiter, the Kids Company program is the biggest factor in this particular average, as it serves a lot of residents.
Hunter Feldt, board member, did bring up a couple questions after the presentation. One question he raised is how the district manages corrective actions based on the audit, particularly relating to student activities, as there will be changes. According to Stutsman, who answered Feldt’s question, student activities, as of July 1 of this year, are under the umbrella of board control, so the board will be managing the funds.
Feldt also asked if there was a goal to be within a state average. Ron Wilke, superintendent, answered him this time. He stated that every district has differences for how they “code” everything. The district now has access to a new database as well, according to Wilke, and plan on using the data as a source for strategic planning, but emphasized that keeping up with the average is quite difficult.
“You do want to look for trends if you’re consistently out of balance,” said Wilke.
Stacy Unowski, board chair, brought up that some choices and priorities, like the buses and transportation around such a large area, are unique to the district, and would be consistently different from the average. Jeff Jackson, board member, followed up by stating that the district has been conservative in its spending in all the time he’s served as a board member, and believes that the school is doing a great job despite not being closer to the averages of the state.