Fund balance rises

Published 10:42 am Monday, December 3, 2012

WINTON – Despite facing declines in state/federal financial support, officials Hertford County Public Schools were praised here earlier this week for their effort to maintain a healthy fund balance.

During their Nov. 26 meeting, the Hertford County Board of Education was presented with the system’s 2011-12 audit report, as made by Alan Thompson of Thompson, Price, Scott, Adams & Company, a certified public accounting firm based in Whiteville.

Upon completing the process of auditing the school system’s financial records, Thompson’s firm rendered an “unqualified opinion” – or as Thompson said, “a clean report, both on the financial end and on the compliance of all state and federal funds you received. It was a very positive report.”

The report included numbers from the previous four years, giving board members the opportunity to view financial trends. One key trend noted was the increase in total fund balance. As of June 30 of this year that number stood at a healthy $3.34 million, up from $2.87 million at the close of the 2010-11 fiscal year and nearly double the 2007-08 fund balance of $1.84 million.

“There’s a significant improvement in your total fund balance,” Thompson said.

The unassigned portion of the total fund balance was audited at $1.79 million, a decrease from $2.57 million a year ago.

“What causes your unassigned fund balance to dip is the appropriation in your budget,” Thompson stated. “So if you don’t use all that (appropriation) up it will not have any impact on the actual fund balance.”

Another eye-catching number in the audit is the percentage of the fund balance when compared against the actual General Fund expenditures. That particular number checked in at 85.22 percent, higher than each of the past four years (71.19% in 2011; 49.75% in 2010; 36.80% in 2009; and 34.93% in 2008).

Even the normally troublesome task of breaking even financially within Child Nutrition Services did not rear its head this year. The audit showed $58,671 worth of positive revenue. Four years ago (2008), that fund was in the red (-$82,403).

“We do nine school district audits and Child Nutrition is inevitably a problem in terms of profitability,” Thompson noted. “This positive number of nearly $59,000 speaks well of your staff, board, etc.”

The audit also revealed a healthy fund balance for capital outlay ($2.68 million), a number that has grown steadily since 2008 (a shade over one million dollars).

All of these positive numbers are coming at a time when state and federal funds earmarked for pubic education in Hertford County are decreasing. Case in point, in 2008 HCPS received a combined $28.1 million from the state and federal government. As per the 2011-12 audit, that combined revenue had fallen to $25.6 million. Hertford County local government has aided in filling in some of that deficit by increasing its allocation to HCPS by $100,000.

“I commend you on growing your fund balance; I know it’s come through a lot of hard work,” Thompson said. “One of the concerns we’ve had as we audit the school districts we serve is how those systems continue the same level of education as the stimulus funds run out. What happens when the state and federal stimulus runs out? Having an adequate fund balance like you have grown allows you make your own choices. It’s a healthy thing for your district. It’s important to have a healthy fund balance.”

“I would say this audit shows that we have been good stewards of the public’s money,” said School Board member Wendell Hall. “As the auditor just mentioned, with cuts from the federal government and who knows what cuts are coming from the state, to have a healthy fund balance in this day and age is imperative. I commend this board on the actions we’ve taken.”

Hall made the motion to accept the audit as presented, which passed without objection.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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