School audit: ‘Much improvement’

The presentation on the Vandalia School District’s audit from the past fiscal year was not what Superintendent Rich Well expected.
Robin Yockey of the Shelbyville firm that performed that district audit told Well and members of the school board last week that the audit shows “much improvement” over the previous year.
“The biggest thing is that expenditures were down by $793,000, and the fund balances increased as a result of that,” said Yockey, of the Mose, Yockey, Brown and Kull firm.
Yockey’s report to the board was the first time that Well had heard that the district’s financial picture improved last year.
“That’s a nice surprise,” Well said. “I just assumed that we would be at the same level as last year."
Yockey told the board that the district had improved from “financial review” status to “financial recognition,” going from 3.25 to 3.7 on the state’s 4.0 scale.
To stay at that level, Yockey said, “You will have to continue with the cuts and holding expenses like you are (now).”
The figures in that audit reflect cuts made by the district prior to the start of the last school year.
The district saved close to $400,000 by not filling vacancies created by retirements, shaved a little more than $125,000 from its athletic expenditures, and reduced vocational and band expenditures by 6 percent.
It also cut driver education, special education and custodial expenditures by 5 percent, the district art program by 4 percent and supplement job stipends, administrative office expenses and food service costs by 3 percent.
“The expenditures we worked hard at, without gutting what we have,” Well said at last week’s school board meeting.
Well, who said that the district was on the state’s watch list when he took over as superintendent in 2006, said the district has been able to deal with its financial struggles only through the involvement of many people.
“That’s taken a lot of cooperation from the community and from the staff,” he said.
For about four years, Well said, the district was short one payment from the state for categoricals, funds for such things as transportation, special education and meals.
“That made just short of half a million dollars difference in our year,” he said.
“This year, we got all of (the payments) on the right budget year,” Well said.
Making significant cuts, he said, is one thing; seeing the impact of the cuts in the overall financial picture is another.
“You can pencil and paper cuts all day long, but until the next year goes through, you really don’t know (how things will turn out),” he said.
“There’s no guarantee that other expenses aren’t going to show up that you weren’t expecting,” Well said.”
“We kept our expenses in check better than what we had forecasted, and then that extra (state) money came in,” he said.
The district followed the significant cuts with a second round last spring. “We’ll see how the cuts we made last May play out,” Well said.
“If we can maintain some type of balance, we’ll start to bring back some of those things (that we cut),” he said.
Currently, Well said, “one of the big things we’re working hard on” is Senate Bill 16, which proposes a change in the funding formula for school districts in the state.
The current system “hurts rural districts more (than larger districts) because we are so dependant on state aid. We’re being disproportionately disadvantaged.
“Chatham-Glenwood loses 11 percent in state aid, they may close a pool early on Friday night; we lose 11 percent, we’re cutting eight teachers,” Well said.
Because of the current funding system, he said, the Vandalia district has lost “probably $2 million in recent years.
“You put $2 million back in (to the district), we can go back to where we were four or five years ago,” Well said.
“We’ve got to find a change.”
Despite the funding issues, he maintains, the Vandalia district continues to provide a good education.
“Our teachers really are providing the education their kids need,” Well said.
“Our job is to make sure we provide services for our kids that are based on the community needs, and we’re a rural community.
“Our vocational programs are a major part of our educational systems. By maintaining those program, our students are able to get the certifications they need to go out into the work force and make a good living,” Well said.
Those who continue onto the next level are also doing well.
“We continue to have our top-level kids achieve at the college level,” he said.

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