by Mike Knaak
The Sartell-St. Stephen school district was given a clean bill of economic health by the annual external audit of the district’s finances.
School board members learned the outcome of the audit at the Nov. 16 meeting, which showed that expenses for the district’s 2020 fiscal year came in at 3.6 percent under budget.
Another indicator of the district’s financial health, the size of its general fund balance, also scored well. By policy, the district aims to keep a fund balance of at least 10 percent. This year the district’s general fund balance increased by $1.9 million to 11 percent.
Three major categories accounted for the expense drop. Instructional expenses decreased because of distance learning as the district adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as what the auditors called “conservative” budgeting. Capital outlay and sites and buildings accounts decreased because of projects planned but not completed during the budget year.
Some 87 percent of the district’s $44.2 million general fund revenue comes from the state of Minnesota. Local property taxes provide the majority of the rest.
While the auditors found no significant compliance issues, they did flag one practice.
The auditors noted a lack of segregation of accounting duties for handling bank accounts, receiving payments and writing checks. This is a common and ongoing issue for smaller governments where a small group of people have to perform many jobs.
The auditors concluded “due to the number of accounting staff needed to properly segregate all of the accounting duties, the cost of obtaining desirable segregation of accounting duties can often exceed benefits which could be derived…Management has determined a complete segregation of accounting duties is impractical to correct.”
The firm of BerganKDV completed the audit, which was approved unanimously by the board.
In another financial matter, the board voted to increase pay for substitutes to attract more applicants and be more competitive with surrounding districts.
Pay for teachers will increase from $120 to $130 per day, $5 more than St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids-Rice school districts pay. The district’s retired teachers who return as substitutes will be paid $140 a day.
The pay for paraprofessionals will increase from $14 per hour to $15.50 per hour.
“This will help our substitute situation to get substitutes who are already in the market,” said Krista Durrwachter, director of Human Services. “There are not subs everywhere like there used to be.”
Substitute pay was last increased three years ago. The new rates will be effective Dec. 1. The board unanimously approved the new pay scale.