By DAVID GREEN
It takes difficult economic times to celebrate a $47,000 deficit.
These are difficult times for most Michigan school districts and auditor Phil Rubley praised the Morenci school district for cutting deficit spending to $46,956 in the past fiscal year.
“That’s a very good position for you to be in,” Rubley told school board members Monday night. “You curbed your budget. You should be commended. You’re probably one of the strongest districts we’re reporting this year, even with the loss.”
In reviewing the highlights of the audit, Rubley pointed out the general fund ended the year with an excess of $173,631. Transferring $220,587 to cover athletic department expenses, the fund was left with a $46,956 deficit.
The budget initially called for an anticipated loss of $85,000, but the board later amended that figure to $150,000 due to financial concerns.
“You finished $103,000 better than anticipated,” Rubley said. “To me, that’s a win. You cut your losses in half [from the previous year], and from years before that, you cut it by $200,000.”
Rubley said the deficit reduction buys the district more time. With $47,000 taken out of the general fund balance, the district still has $758,664 in reserves. That savings would have been wiped away quickly with the $200,000 deficits of past years.
In looking at the two funds other than the general fund, Rubley reported good news in each.
Food service added $13,000 to the $123,000 carryover from the previous year.
“That’s pretty exceptional,” Rubley said. “Your costs are in line with your fees and that’s very unusual.”
Most districts struggle to keep their food service fund in the black, he said.
Superintendent of Schools Kyle Griffith noted later that success in the food service budget has come without raising lunch prices.
The budget called for a transfer of $220,000 to the athletic fund and that resulted in an excess of $6,000. The key, Rubley said, is to see if the district is transferring more than what was budgeted. The $6,000 excess could be brought back to the general fund if needed.
Griffith pointed out that the $47,000 deficit is the lowest in many years, despite “very trying times.”
“It’s an amazing feat,” he said. “This is good news.”
He praised maintenance worker Jim Petry, who was in the audience, as an example of a staff member doing more with less. He also noted that administrator Nate Parker has filled two staff positions, and that board members have faced some tough decisions in bringing down expenses.
“You have to be economically responsible and take measures that aren’t always popular with the public,” he said.
Griffith also praised school finance director Erica Metcalf.
“Erica is really the heart behind this, working her magic,” he said. “It took a lot of magic this time.”
COACHING—Board members accepted the resignation of varsity football coach Dan Hoffman and junior varsity coach Mike McDowell.
CONFERENCES—Elementary school dean of students Mary Fisher reported an attendance rate of 97 percent at the recent parent-teacher conferences.
BREAKFAST—Fisher spoke of several good indications since the start of the free breakfast program, but she’s withholding judgment until several months of data are collected.
So far, she’s seen a reduction in tardiness, fewer children sent to the office for disciplinary problems and improved behavior overall.
“Teachers like it and the kids just absolutely love breakfast in the classroom,” she said.