Members of the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education voted unanimously to accept the annual audit for last fiscal year as presented by Ken Loy, CPA, and recognized the Gillespie Middle School baseball team which recently concluded its season as first runner-up in the IESA Class 2A State Championship—the first time in school history a middle school team came within one game of earning a state championship.
Loy, senior partner in Loy, Miller, Talley, PCs, Jerseyville, said the audit gave the district a clean bill of health financially.
“The school district is on solid footing and things look pretty good for you now,” Loy said. “You’re not fighting the deficit spending battle you had for a few years. That has kind of turned around for you now.” Loy said the the district’s brighter financial picture was due in part to a settlement received as a result of the lawsuit against Union Pacific Railroad in connection with the loss of Benld Elementary Schoo, coupled with improvement in state aid revenue resulting from the state’s new Evidence Based funding formula and additional revenue coming to the district as a result of the county’s school facilities sales tax.
Loy said the district received about $470,000 more in state aid last fiscal year than it did the year before—an increase of about 6.3 percent. Additionally, it reaped about $392,000 from the county school facilities sales tax—up from the previous year by about $20,000.
Despite the increased revenue, however, Loy said the district had deficit spending in some fund, which contributed to lowering the district’s financial rating reported to the State Board of Education. Overall, the deficit spending amounted to about $370,000.
“That’s just a small amount of deficit spending,” Loy said. “On a budget of $15 million, there is no concern with that at all. The district has good fund balances overall.”
The financial rating reported to the State Board of Education is based on five factors including the ratio of fund balances to revenue, ratio of expenditures to revenue, number of days of cash on hand, amount of short term borrowing and the amount of long-term debt.
“Your score is 3.35 percent out of 4, which is considered a ‘review’ designation which is one notch down from the top rating,” Loy noted. The previous fiscal year, the district rating was 3.7, qualifying the district for ‘recognition,’ the highest rating available.
“You’re down 35 points from the year before,” Loy said. “There are basically a couple of reasons for that. One is you have a little more than average percentage of debt. You have a pretty high debt load stretched out over a lot of years. The second thing is that you had a little bit of deficit spending. That’s understandable. It’s still a good score.”
Referring to the audit report, Loy said the district has $12,165,000 on long-term, bonded debt, which includes money borrowed to build the BenGil Elementary School, plus $62,000 in short-term debt for a total indebtedness of $13,227,000.
Loy said the audit shows that the property tax rate for the district declined from $4.20 the previous fiscal year to $4.12 last year. The decline was due in part to a 3.8 percent increase in the total equalized assessed valuation of taxable property in the district. Last year, the district collected about $2.9 million in local property taxes, the largest share of local funding the school receives.
The district’s enrollment of 1,162 last fiscal year, Loy said, was fairly stable in comparison to previous years.
“You’ve been in that 1,100 range for a number of years,” he said. “A lot of rural districts have seen their number of students decline.”
Dividing operation costs by the number of students yielded a tuition cost of $9,177, compared to $8,271 the previous year. Loy said the charge the district would assess for out-of-district students is somewhat higher than other districts comparable in size to CUSD 7. He said $7,500 to $8,000 is the average tuition charge for districts the size of the local school district.
Loy said the audit requires three opinion letters from the auditors—a general opinion, an opinion regarding federal funds and one regarding the financial status reported to the State Board of Education. In each of the three letters, the auditor provided a “clean opinion,” meaning the auditors agreed with the district’s accounting procedures and confirmed that the district had adequate procedures in place to ensure funds are properly spent and assets are safeguarded.
“So you have three letters and three good opinions,” Loy said. “You had a good year overall.”
The audit, which is required by state law, was formally accepted on a motion by Don Dobrino, seconded by Bill Carter.
GMS BASEBALL TEAM RECOGNITION
Twenty Gillespie Middle School baseball team members and their parents crowded into the meeting room to hear accolades from board members and administrators in recognition of the team’s reaching state finals and finishing as first runner-up.
Noting that the IESA organization includes both private and public schools, Supt. Joe Tieman said the local Tieman could legitimately be considered the top team in its class among public schools.
“I don’t know if you’ve thought of it this way, but for public schools, you are the state champions,” Tieman said.
“Every once in a while a school is fortunate enough to have the stars line up,” GMS Principal Jill Rosentreter commented. “For us, those stars were a dedicated, talented and respected coaching staff, a group of boys who were will to put in the time and dedication, make no excuses and keep going, and a group of parents who were supportive of the players and the ooaches. When that happens, the school and the entire community benefits.”
She congratulated the team, calling them a “spectacular group of boys.”
“I want to stress that while you had a major accomplishment, the job is not over,” Rosentreter continued. “We want to see you get stronger and continue your journey as student athletes.”
Tieman recalled that he served as middle school principal for seven years. “Our teams were good but in those seven years we had one team go to regionals,” he said. “Mrs. Rosentreter becomes principal and out of the blue, we’ve got basketball teams going to state, baseball teams going to state. She has the magic touch.”
Both Tieman and Rosentreter offered praise to the coaches, Jeremy Smith and assistant coach Tim Wargo.
On a motion by Dobrino, seconded by Dennis Tiburzi, the board accepted a contract with Liberty Mutual Insurance to provide commercial coverage for the coming year. Tieman said he was happy to report that Liberty Mutual proposed renewing the policy with a 1.3 percent increase in the premium. The average increase among commercial insurers, Tieman said, is four percent.
“I’m really pleased with our provider,” Tieman said.
The annual premium for the coming year is $221,164. The coverage includes workers compensation and liability.
Following an hour-long executive session, the board took action to hire several new employees and accept resignations from two middle school track coaches, as follows:
• Cynthia Weishaupt was hired as a special education full-route bus driver.
• Cindy McCarty was hired as a special education bus aide.
• Pam Strausbaugh was hired as a paraprofessional/classroom aide pending a certification and background check.
• The board voted to accept resignations from GMS track coaches Casey Niehaus and Christina Blevins and to post both positions as vacant.