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Bemidji School District numbers look good in 2008-09 audit

When it comes to using taxpayer dollars, the school district needs to be able to prove it can keep its finances in good working order.

The Bemidji School District received its annual audit of the 2008-09 budget year, presented by Don Zierke, a partner with the firm of Miller McDonald Inc. of Bemidji, at a meeting on Monday evening.

The audit showed less than 1 percent variance between both the district's original revenue and expenditure budget set in June 2008 and its actual budget in December 2009.

"Basically, this means we are doing things the way they want them done," said Chris Leinen, the district's director of business services. "These percentages are really good," Leinen said. "

According to Zierke, it is best for school districts to be 98 percent accurate or more in these areas.

"When you can be this close, then you can be fairly comfortable with projecting the future," Leinen said.

While its budget projections were on track, the district's fund balance gave the auditor reason to take note.

The district's ending fund balance is down for the third straight year in a row. This means the fund used to pay for maintenance of a boiler or repair of a school vehicle, as examples, or to manage cash flow, isn't high enough.

The ending fund balance is at roughly 2.7 percent of its total expenditures. According to Leinen, the school board's policy says the district's fund balance should be at about 8-10 percent of its total expenditures. The auditor suggests a more conservative number of between 10-12 percent of the district's total expenditures.

"We're at a half of a month's worth of expenditure pay," Leinen said. "It's too small. It should be bigger."

Last year the district overspent the budget by $660,759.

"We made a significant number of reductions last year," Leinen said. "Hopefully those reductions we made will have a lasting, recurring effect that will help us get through these lean times."

Leinen also stated the district having to borrow money because of shifts in state aid hindered its ability to keep money in the bank in order to make payments.