Herald JournalHerald Journal, Jan. 10, 2005

Auditor notes school has little cash; cuts planned if referendum fails

By Jenni Sebora

Money – and the lack thereof – highlighted last Monday’s Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted school board meeting.

Paul Harvego of Conway, Deuth & Schmiesing presented the school board with the district’s 2003-04 audit.

Harvego told the board that the district is financially able to continue with operations, according to the report.

However, Harvego noted the district has very little cash on hand, with no cash in the general fund, and the district is relying on state aid coming in.

The district is limping along until state aid comes in, which is usually not on a timely basis, Harvego said.

Harvego also reviewed some recommendations for administration consideration.

One issue addressed was internal control. It was noted that it is very common for districts, such as HLWW, to assign many major responsibilities to a few key individuals to operate within limited budgets.

Harvego reviewed the following recommendations:

• There be more segregation of duties within payroll and that, in the very least, another management employee review each payroll.

• The business manager prepare monthly bank reconciliations and have them reviewed by management and prepare at least quarterly financial statements for the board to review throughout the year.

• Management review alignment of administrative staff and their duties and prepare written job descriptions for each administrative member, so there is no confusion as to who does what.

• The district improve communication between management and supervisors, such as between food service and community service department and the district office.

• Send staff to continuing education district financing seminars and workshops put on by the sate department of education and utilize the state dept. of education’s web site that deals with district financing.

• Each student activity should complete a statement of purpose for an activity fund.

A student activity must serve a specific group of students who control the activity with guidance of an adult. Each activity should be self-supporting.

If accounts don’t meet such guidelines in the Manual for Activity Fund Accounting, the monies must go into the district’s general fund and not the student activity accounts, Harvego said.

The board requested that Supt. George Ladd and the administrative team look at the recommendations from the audit report and come back to the board in a month with the recommendations that could be implemented.

Budget reduction report reviewed

Board Clerk Al Doering reviewed the suggested budget reduction report with budget suggestions for the 2005-06 year.

A new report was prepared by the committee with input from administration as to estimated cuts and revenue if the operating levy failed and if it passed.

If the levy fails, close to $1.1 million in budget cuts and revenue increases will need to be implemented.

“I think it’s important that some budget cuts be implemented this year so that people can know what the impact of a failed levy will mean,” Board Member Tom Hammer said.

In response to the board’s request, Ladd and the administrative team will review the budget suggestions have information at the next board meeting as to what budget suggestions could be implemented this school year.

More on the mail-in levy vote

Regarding the mail-in operating levy ballot, the board reviewed a sample ballot, and decided that the second question vote of $50 per pupil unit, a net increase of approximately $69,000, to fund transportation and bus purchases, be contingent on the first ballot question of $500 per resident marginal cost pupil unit.

The second question can pass only if the first passes.

As the LEARN committee continues its mission to educate voters on the operating levy, another committee, the November operating levy flier committee of Board Members Hammer, Lori Custer, and Charles Weber, will bring a recommendation to the next board meeting regarding an operating levy mailing to go out to district members informing them of the levy also.

District Secretary and Election Judge Marilyn Greeley briefly reviewed the mail-in ballot process and noted that it is a very secure process.

It is just as, if not more secure, than a walk-in election, Ladd said.

Other voting issues that Greeley and Ladd addressed were that voters will be required to put ballots in two envelopes that will be included along with instructions as to how to complete the ballot.

The envelopes must be sealed and cannot be opened until election day, or the ballot will be considered “spoiled” and cannot be counted, Greeley said.

“It (mail-in ballot process) is very similar to absentee voting. It is not difficult,” Greeley said.

Ballots must be received by 8 p.m. March 29, and if voters think that their mail-in ballot cannot be received by that time, they can bring their ballot into the designated area, which will be the HLWW community education office, Greeley said.

The board asked how late the mailed ballots could be picked up from the post office and suggested that mail be picked up more than once on March 29.

The board also suggested to arrange to have ballots sent to a separate post office box which would be solely for the ballots to be sent to. Greeley and Ladd will look into these suggestions.

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