It’s been over six years since the Grand County School District found itself in the middle of an unforeseen financial crisis that resulted in a nearly $2 million shortfall. Over the next few years, the district struggled to recover. However, thanks to the hard work and dedication of the staff of the Grand County School District, finances are back on track, and continuing to improve each year.
“There are a lot of different grades that we can give to a financial statement as CPAs,” Ray Bartholomew, a partner in the Audit and Assurance Department at Squire and Company, PC, said. “This has an A-grade… You can feel good about these numbers.”
Bartholomew said that the fund balance held in the General Fund, the main fund that the district uses in order to pay things such as teacher salaries, has improved over the last few years. “The district is stronger than it was a few years ago,” he said. “That’s good news. There have been years there has been a little bit of a struggle… but you’re in a good place right now.”
The district has set aside just shy of $700,000, which equates to 5% of the General Fund budget. “That amount is allowed by law to set aside for contingencies,” Bartholomew said.
In the past, Bartholomew said that the state has, on occasion, set a certain amount for the Weighted Pupil Unit, the main mechanism for funding public schools, at the beginning of the year, and then reduced that amount in the middle of the year. “That balance there can be used to help cover those shortages or changes in funding,” Bartholomew said. “It’s good to have that there.” He added that the fund is sometimes referred to as a rainy day fund.
While that fund has grown to around 5% of the General Fund budget, Bartholomew said that the district should aim for enough money in that fund to cover two to three months of operating costs. “That would be around 20% of your budget,” he said. “So you’re getting closer to that, but I’m not sure you’re quite there yet.”
He said that it’s important for the district to have a balance in the bank due to the way schools are funded. “You operate for nearly half the year before you start getting most of your money,” he said. “So you have to have something to pay the teachers from August to December when you start getting your tax money… You have four or five months where you have to operate on what you have in your bank account.”
Bartholomew said that around half of the school’s revenue stream is brought in through county property taxes. The other half is provided by either the State of Utah, or the federal government.
According to Bartholomew, that disconnect between how the funds come in and how the funds go back out can make school accounting difficult. “Your plan for the year was a really good plan,” he told the school board. “You did exceptionally well.”
“What you brought in for the year was more than what you spent,” Bartholomew said. “You’re better off. You’re improving. You’re not spending all of your resources each year. You’re making good decisions.”
In addition to auditing the finances, Squire and Company also audited the district’s accounting principles to ensure that the staff at the school district was following proper accounting procedures. “There were no significant findings,” Kyle Green, a supervisor with Squire said.
“This feels really good,” Board of Education President Jim Webster said. “Especially after what we went through years ago. There’s a lot of good progress going on here.”