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R-P School Board receives audit report

Fri, Oct 23rd, 2009
Posted in Education

Hearing from Darwin Viker of independent auditing firm Larson Allen Weishair, the board received both cautious and positive news at the Monday, October 19th meeting.

The district received a clear audit and only two control deficiencies were noted. The audit also showed an increase in the district's community service fund, food service fund, and general fund while maintaining no debt service. Viker attributed the outcome to experienced personnel on board. There was at least one issue that Viker found which led to the school being shorted approximately $40,000 from the Department of Revenue. The money is contingent until it is received by the district.

While the audit appeared extremely positive, Viker noted, "School districts are facing less money, inflation, and falling enrollment. You've been proactive. Stay ahead of the game." Viker also added that he felt the upcoming vote on a new referendum levy and the recently approved Q-Comp (Quality Compensation for Teachers) would help to mitigate the issue.

As for the district's revenue, it breaks down into percentages that lean very heavily upon state sources: 84.9 percent state sources, 9.5 percent property taxes, 3.1 percent federal sources, and 2.5 percent other sources. In his professional opinion, Viker believes that the state did little to try to balance the books and the district is headed into about a three to four year period of undue financial struggle.

Another positive that came about from the audit was the standing of regular and vocational instruction. Viker believes that the amount, which is more than 4.5 times the statewide average (for regular instruction), shows that the district is getting the dollars efficiently to the classroom where it's needed.

Regarding the district's debt service, which is currently none, Viker cautioned, "It's not necessarily a good thing. It's an indication of your building. You are aware of your needs."

The audit's overall perspective shows that the district is doing the right things and Viker believes that the referendum for the operating levy will only help to stabilize and maintain the current direction of the district.

Chairman John Nitecki questioned how districts could afford to spend roughly $1,064 per student. Viker responded that it was likely through a tax or debt service levy. He added, "The state's not keeping up with the formula. It's a hurdle you'll have to jump. We're not hearing anything. The deficits are still there and there's no indication that anything's changing. I hope our legislators would see education as a top priority. It's better to be in the position that you are. Stay strong."

House Bonding Committee

District Superintendent Chuck Ehler and Councilor Roger Metz recently rode along with a group of approximately 15, including Representative Greg Davids, from Chatfield to Winona. While the bus ride was less conducive to getting the new school initiative message heard than the two had hoped, Ehler noted, "They know we're here and that we're willing to go to any length."

Ehler also detailed a moment of shock during the expedition. "One of the most profound things that was asked - and I had indicated that in Fillmore County we're limited by being agriculturally based - was 'How can farmers be hurting with fields so full?' It was an eye-opening experience to know that people are not fully aware of what's going on in our agricultural areas."

The district was thankful to Representative Davids for making arrangements for the visit.

Other Notables

The district has been awarded a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council to have an Artist-In-Residence. Artist Elisa Korenne will work with students on song writing, providing hands-on understanding of song craft, exposure to stories about local historical figures, and the opportunity for the students to create songs as a group. A culmination of this program will be a student concert sometime in late February or early March.

R-P was recently chosen by Sam's Club in Rochester as their School-of-the Year. The company presented 10 randomly chosen elementary staff members to receive $100 gift certificates, as well as treating students and staff to cake. Congratulations to the district!

Get Involved

The next open forum regarding the November 3rd vote on the Operating Levy Referendum is scheduled for Monday, October 26th, at 7:00pm in the high school theatre in Rushford. The public is encouraged to attend. Board members will also be present at upcoming home football games and the high school Pops Concert on October 30th to answer any questions the public might have.

The school board will meet for their next regularly scheduled meeting, Monday, November 16th, 2009, at 6:30 in the high school biology room.

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