SJ school district gets an ‘A’ on its audit report

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — The St. Joseph school district is in a good place financially.

Superintendent Ann Cardon had a lot to celebrate after St. Joseph school board members were given a synopsis of the 2015-16 fiscal year audit report during Monday’s study session.

The audit revealed that last year was the first time in five years that the school district added money to its fund balance.

“This is a step in the right direction,” Cardon said. “(The auditors) were here for a shorter amount of time than usual, which goes toward the preparedness for the audit.”

David Schaffer, a partner at Kruggel Lawton, said while the district had originally budgeted for a $22,000 deficit last year, the district actually finished with a $120,000 surplus.

The surplus was mainly attributed to lower maintenance costs that came during a mild winter.

“We have given you an unmodified report, which is the highest level of assurance we can give. That’s kind of like getting an ‘A’ on your report card,” Schaffer said. “This was the best audit we’ve done for St. Joseph schools, and we’ve been auditing you guys for a long time.”

The firm was required to do audits of the district’s bond and sinking funds, which also turned out well.

Kathy Hamilton, chief financial officer for the district, said the district received great rates for their fuel for transportation, as well as the heating, mowing and plowing costs.

“The generosity of the (SJPS) Foundation and our heating and fuel costs were a big factor in the budget’s surplus,” Hamilton said after the session.

Schaffer told board members the district has remained relatively even over the past three years, which was a reprieve for the amount of deficits that were addressed in years prior.

“You guys have made the proper adjustments in the past,” Schaffer said. “Over the last three years you’ve been breakeven, which in the school financing world is something to be proud of.”

Treasurer Chris Cook emphasized the increasing to the district’s fund equity, while board President Amy Porritt-Peirce said the board should not be surprised by the district’s financial well-being.

“We know everybody has been putting the pencil to the paper, if you will,” she said. “This was a team effort, from the Foundation to the staff, we couldn’t ask for better results.”

The board has a week to look over the audit before a scheduled vote at next week’s meeting, set for 6 p.m. next Monday in the North Lincoln Administration Building.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Oct. 4, 2016)
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