She says actual budget compares nicely to initial, projected budget

    Crookston School Board members, Superintendent Chris Bates and Business Manager Laura Lyczewski heard what anyone in their positions would want to hear Wednesday when Kim Durbin presented the school district's audit report for the last year.

    "You're sitting in good shape," said Durbin, of Drees, Riskey & Vallager Ltd. in Crookston at the board's working session in the school district office conference room.

    Some tidbits of note from Durbin's audit report:

    • The district's unassigned fund balance totals $2.1 million, and the district's assets exceed liabilities. "You have some fund balances that are in the healthy range," Durbin said.

    • Durbin, who focuses much more on the actual budget than the budget that was projected at the beginning of the fiscal year, said the final expense budget was within $110,000 of the initial expense projection, and the final revenue budget compared to the initial projection was "almost spot on," with only an $11,000 difference.

    "School districts typically monitor their budgets more closely than other government entities, because they need to stay on top of (changing daily enrollment)," Durbin said. "But, still, everything (projected budget versus actual budget) was so close last year."

    • Of the district's $6.3 million in instructional costs, $2.8 million of that was spent on special education instruction. Asked by board member Dave Davidson if that is an unusually high number, Durbin said it's higher than most districts of Crookston's size, but not shocking.

    Business Manager Laura Lyczewski noted that Crookston is the Polk County seat and, therefore, is home to numerous group homes that have disabled clients that attend the public schools.

    "We are a public school, so we need to serve the public that lives here," Davidson said.

    "The number of special education students increased quite a bit over the previous year," Durbin explained. "You had to make sure you have the staff to serve them."

    • Audit concerns in recent years tied to accounting relating to the various student activity accounts have eased, Durbin said. There were some negative balances in last year's audit findings, she said, which are a no-no, but that was rectified in the past year by having office staff at Highland School and CHS use a transfer form signed by two people when student activity account funds were moved.

    • The district receives around $17,000 a year in "gifted and talented" funding, but with a current balance of approximately $36,000, Davidson noted that it's been a couple years since the district invested any of that money. Bates said the district last spent those dollars on salary paid to retiring teacher Larry Anderson, who stayed around for a portion of the school year providing specialized math instruction. Davidson hinted that the district needs to come up with a way to wisely spend the gifted and talented dollars each year.

    The school board meets Friday, Sept. 25 at 7 a.m. instead of its typical meeting date and time of 5 p.m. on Sept. 28. The audit report will be approved at that meeting.