Positive audit for Belding schools

By Emilee Nielsen • Last Updated 9:48 pm on Thursday, December 29, 2016

During a regular meeting last Monday, the Belding Area Schools Board of Education heard an audit report from a managing member of a Saranac accounting firm. The district was given a clean opinion on its audit report. — Daily News/Emilee Nielsen

BELDING — Steven Thompson, a managing member of the Saranac accounting firm of Biggs, Hausserman, Thompson and Dickinson, talked numbers with the Belding Area Schools Board of Education on Dec. 19.

During a regular meeting of the board, Thompson gave an audit report for the school district based on the fiscal year ending June 30. According to Thompson, the district received a clean audit opinion, which is the “best type of audit opinion you can get.”

Overall, the general fund balance for the year ending June 30 was $2,349,542, which is a bit of a decrease from the beginning of the year. There was a deficit of $203,961 in the budget.

According to Thompson, part of the reason for the decrease in the district’s net position is the district’s portion of the unfunded pension liability for teachers and school employees. He said there is nothing the district can do to change the amount of the unfunded pension liability and it fluctuates according to funding at the state level.

“Your discretionary revenue actually went down a little bit because the pension revenue went up,” he said. “For school districts these days, that’s a pretty good fund balance.”

Thompson said the district has an unassigned fund balance of 8.6 percent with a 12.06 percent fund balance overall. In the past, 15 percent was the norm and what districts would strive for, but that has been difficult for any school district to maintain, according to Thompson.

According to Thompson, the district has refinanced most of its debt funds so the interest rates are “pretty good” and the district should be done refinancing soon before the interest rates begin to go up. He said the food service fund broke even for the fiscal year.

Thompson said one thing that will change next year is the disclosure of tax abatements so the district can see where there are drops in tax revenues due to breaks in property taxes for various reasons.

Also during the meeting, Belding Middle School Principal Joe Barron gave a quarterly report on the progress of the middle school as a priority school.

Barron said the last three months have been spent focusing on achievement for students. Within that focus, the two top priorities have been to “improve and grow capacity for best practice instructional delivery” and “to design a plan to create a culture of literacy across all the subjects.”

“This is the gateway to achievement and must be present in all of our subjects and not just our English and language arts classes,” he said.

Barron said the school has also tried to encourage students to read subject matter outside of their typical comfort zone.

Other things Barron said the school is focusing on is keeping open communications with parents about classes and assessments so parents can stay informed about how their child is doing and can ask questions about anything they’d like clarification on.

The school is also focusing on providing a common vision for the middle school that parents and staff can add to increase the feeling of investment and closeness in the school.

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