Out of the red, into the black

Published 2:04 pm Wednesday, January 30, 2019

WINDSOR – Following the release of its latest audit report for the 2017-18 fiscal year ending June 30, 2018, Bertie County Schools has “totally overcome” a deficit of $1.4 million.

According to the annual audit findings, the school system is back in the black with approximately $710,760 in its General Fund Balance.

The state Board of Education reduced the number of findings on the audit from nine to four, and in two years the district has eliminated its debt.

In 2017, the NC Department of Public Instruction declared in a report that the district’s “lack of financial management and oversight” had resulted in a deficit of more than $700,000 in the general fund and more than $135,000 in the restricted fund.

To return things to an orderly state, the school system not only replaced its superintendent, several other top-level staffers, and its finance officer, but it also set a goal to reduce its staff by more than six percent beginning with the 2017-18 school year to help save money.

Bertie County Schools also implemented a spending and hiring freeze and began collecting unrecognized revenue, including four years of sales tax refunds.

At the regular meeting of the Bertie County Schools’ Board of Education on Jan. 15 of this year, Dale Smith of Anderson, Wike and Smith, LLC Accounting and Auditing firm, brought the good news to present before the school board.

“I do feel your finances are back in order at this point,” Smith said.

BCS Executive Director of Finance Steven Harrell said, “We are making steady and productive growth. The 2017 Reduction in Force (RIF) made deep cuts; that, along with significantly reduced spending, led to a quick and successful turnaround.”

“This could not have been possible without the diligence of the staff we have in place,” Harrell added. “It is because of their hard work that we can move forward and continue to maintain positive gains.”

Smith reported to the board that between $500,000 and $600,000 is a “good target level” for liabilities and a cushion for emergencies for a school district the size of Bertie County. “Seven hundred-ten thousand dollars is a very good level,” said Smith.

Harrell told the board that both the district’s Finance and Human Resources departments are working together and communicating well. He said that for the findings that came out of the audit, they are already taking steps to correct for the FY 2019 Financial Audit.

Bertie County Manager Scott Sauer was present at the meeting to hear the findings.

“I just want to say, ‘thank you’ to the Board of Education,” Sauer stated. “You have my humble admiration and respect.”

“This was a Herculean effort, and it took many hands to handle the load,” he continued. “Well done. Education is job one, and we (the Bertie County Commissioners) appreciate all that you are doing.”