FULTON, NY – An external auditor recently summarized the Fulton City School District audit findings, which were then relayed to the Board of Education at Tuesday’s (Oct 25) regular meeting.
The audit showed that the revenues of the district exceeded the expenditures for the 2015-16 school budget, resulting in an operational surplus just more than $518,000 – allowing school officials to replenish district’s reserves and fund balances.
“To put it simply, in any business, when that happens you have net profit, you have a surplus and that’s a good thing. The last couple years we’ve had a situation where we ran operating deficits, so this is a very good thing,” business administrator for the district, Kathy Nichols told the board members.
In a presentation to the board, Nichols said the district ended up under spending the budget by approximately $3.6 million, a situation that she doesn’t “anticipate happening in the future” as the under spending was attributed to many different factors coming together.
A spending slowdown put in place last year asked everyone in the district to be prudent with spending, purchasing only what was necessary.
A mild winter helped keep utility costs and weather related overtime costs down, a “reasonable year in its self funded health plan” of which Nichols said broke even, and a slow down on technology spending as planning for the Smart Schools Bond Act all worked together to achieve the district’s under spent status.
Likewise, for the 2016-17 school year, the district has been able to reduce its reliance on fund balance as a means to balance the budget.
Nichols said for as many years as she has been with the district, they have included in its budget planning to use some part of the fund balance as means to help balance the budget.
“It would be great if we didn’t have to do that, but that’s not reality,” she said.
The reliance on fund balance has decreased from $1.5 million in the previous year to $676,000 for the 2016-17 budget, a change that the auditor was glad to see happen within the district, Nichols said.
Similarly, the undesignated fund balance, “the money that hasn’t been assigned to any specific purpose” has climbed to $1,901,073, totaling 2.7% of the 2016-17 budget.
The district’s total restricted, assigned, and unassigned fund balance totaled $10,220,160.
In contrast, the district’s revenues came in less than expected by close to $1 million, mainly due to lower BOCES Aid than anticipated.
“I’m glad we have an operating surplus this year. It’s really an entire district effort to be very thoughtful with spending,” Nichols said.
The audit addressed a few areas of concern for school officials to keep watch of including a loss of just more than $74,000 in the food service fund.
Nichols attributed the loss to healthier food regulations and new benefit costs for full time food service employees, noting that the loss is less than those in years past and that the department still runs in the positive at nearly $206,000.
Continued in the food service fund, a concern arose from the audit in which the meal counts for filing for state and federal reimbursements were not always accurate due to software error and resulted in a loss of revenue of roughly $1,000.
“We think we’ve got it under control now,” said Nichols, as the district implemented new software as part of correcting this issue and intends to work closely with CNYRIC, Central New York Regional Information Center, to ensure accurate meal counts with the district treasurer and food service director monitoring the issue.
Other comments in the audit include possible review of the district’s transportation services in spring of 2017 to decide whether a consultant should revisit to determine if a request for proposal is in the best interest for the district.
The district’s transportation contract, currently with Golden Sun Bus Services, is valid until June of 2018, however has not been bid on in several years.
Finally, a small adjustment in the district’s attendance tracking will help to better record attendance for administrators.