With several items on the docket Monday evening, the Fergus Falls School Board listened to business manager Mark Masten explain the school’s fiscal year 2019 financial audit.
Masten explained that the audit was insurance for the school board to know that things are going OK in the district and that it is “not hiding money and there are no shenanigans,” and it is an “autopsy” of what happened in the district last year.
Before examining the audit, Masten stated that the school district received an unqualified statement saying the school is doing well from the auditors. Continuing his report, the business manager mentioned that out of 495 school districts and charter schools in the state that Fergus Falls ranked 69th in population. Masten mentioned that in prior years Fergus Falls was 72nd and 75th. “Our enrollment growth is staring you right in the face,” Masten added when referring to the numbers.
One of the issues that he pointed out was that the school ranks 476th in revenue per student. Masten explained that despite the city being a regional center, its population and being reasonably affluent, the school does not receive the same funding. According to Masten, schools in areas like the metro receive more funding due to high concentration of low economic status and because of high amounts of diversity, they get additional funding.
“We have to be an extremely efficient school district to survive,” he added.
Rounding back to the World’s Best Workforce report that was presented earlier in the meeting, Masten mentioned that Minnesota ranked No. 1 in the 17 states that tested 90% or more for the ACT test and that Fergus Falls was above state average.
“Bang for the buck. We do a tremendous job in our school district of producing results for very little money per kid, so hats off to a lot of people, the community, our teachers, our support staff and...yeah..even our administration,” joked Masten.
Masten went through several of the different budgets including the unassigned fund balance. The school has nearly $6 million, compared to over a decade ago where it saw a deficit of around $2 million. “It has taken us a long time to get to this point,” Masten said. But he also mentioned that despite the misconception that the school has extra funds, the district is right around state average.
The audit did not go without a few “dings” against the district. The auditors noticed issues including preparation of financial statements and schedule of expenditures of federal awards including material vestments and material weaknesses, an instance of improper use of student activity funds, and an instance of disbursement lacking supporting documentation.
Masten responded to the auditors with a letter addressing each issue. The first issue was an annual one as the school district is not large enough to employ those that do just federal programming. “No matter how good that we do, unless you hire a person and a half or two people that are dedicated solely to the $600,000 of federal funds that we get, you are going to get dinged,” Masten said.
The second item involved the payment of a disc jockey for Snoball. Masten explained that a step was missed as the school should have taken the money from student activities, wrote a check to the district and then to the disc jockey.
The last item was a missing detailed invoice. During a section speech meet, the concession stand was opened to sell items but the school did not obtain a detailed report. “Did we do the service? Yes. Did we transfer the money? Yes. We just didn’t have that one slip of paper,” Masten stated.
Masten closed out his report stating that the audit is available online at the school’s website and overall that the school district did very well.