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Audit says Taylor County school finances in good shape

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No deficiencies or weaknesses found

By Leslie Moore

Taylor County School District's finances for the 2011-2012 fiscal year were found to be in order after a recent audit.

Jeff Sprowles of Wise, Buckner, Sprowles & Associates announced the news at Taylor County School Board's regular meeting last Tuesday.

According to the auditor's report, cash and cash equivalents at the end of the year were $4,540,887. Total assets were $19.2 million. Liabilities were $6,888,671. Total net assets were $12.3 million.

A total of $1.2 million went into general operations.

"Over half of that went to unrestricted assets, so that's great," Sprowles said. "That's a very good sign for the district."

Instruction was the largest piece of the expense pie chart, which Sprowles said is to be expected.

"Instruction is right under 60 percent of the total expenses paid out by the district," Sprowles said. "And that is a percent and a half larger than the prior year, so the district is putting money into instruction, as it should."

State revenue sources were 65.5 percent, up almost 10 percent from the prior year. Sprowles said this is because of on-behalf payments that the state pitches in each year.

Federal revenue decreased 3 percent.

While the local tax rate dropped 1 percent, revenue generated from taxes was up a little more than 2 percent.

"Now that is an increase of right under $21,000 from the prior year," Sprowles said. "But again, the rate dropped slightly but increased property assessments are the reason for the increase there."

Total expenses were up by about $1 million, which Sprowles attributed to a $1.2 million decrease in federal fund money coming in from the previous year.

The district paid off $600,000 in debt.

Superintendent Roger Cook said he is pleased with the auditor's report.

"Mr. Sprowles is right, you should spend money in instruction and we do, but you've got to really watch it close and make sure you're not spending money frivolously on programs that aren't helping academics and not raising proficiency, and that's a tough call sometimes," Cook said.

Cook said that anyone who doesn't agree that the district is frugal with money should look into the district's books, which are open to the public. He said the district doesn't hide anything and that it works hard at being conservative yet efficient.

"I commend our teachers and our principals and our faculty and staff for sometimes doing proficient work with less tools than what I would like for them to have," Cook said. "They really do a good job."

Administrative Reports

• Assistant Superintendent Susan Kilby announced that the Taylor County School District is proficient based on standardized testing scores.

• Taylor County Elementary School Principal Donna Williams said that TCES didn't score proficient on recent state tests and discussed steps they will take to improve next year's scores.

• Taylor County Middle School Principal Tony Jewell said school announcements made over the intercom will now be on the school website after a request made at a recent site-based decision making council meeting.

• Taylor County High School Principal Charles Higdon Jr. said accountability at the high school level has expanded.

He said, just like any school in the state, TCHS needs to make improvements. He also said TCHS is one of the top high schools in the state for attendance and is known around the state for its zero percent drop-out rate.

• Visual Charter School Principal Dr. Bill Mattingly shared student responses about their experiences with online classes.

• Troy Benningfield, instructional supervisor, said the district will seek accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. As one of 35 proficient districts in the state, he said, the districts deserves that seal of approval. He said Jeffrey Schuhmann is currently working on an application for "District of Innovation Status."

Also at the Meeting:

• Sandy Cook, who is involved with the 21st Century Program, spoke about "Lights on After School" at TCMS. She said an adult technology class will be offered to parents.

• TCHS student Shelby Smith announced that Cardinal Creations will now offer graphic design for items such as decals and posters. She said TCMS students will also be included in the project to learn how to use the software required to make the decals and basic business concepts. This will be a fundraiser for the 21st Century program.

• TCMS students gave a presentation of their recent Ghost Tour of Brookside Cemetery. More than 100 people attended. Gifted and Talented Education Coordinator Debbie Gumm said it was an opportunity for the students to learn how to do research and learn about Taylor County's history.

• The board approved the hiring of a future problem solving coach at TCMS for $250 per semester.

• The board had first reading of a guardianship policy, which requires students to have correct guardianship.

• The board approved non-resident contracts for the 2013-2014 school year.

• The board approved shortened school day waivers for students who have special circumstances that prevent them from attending the entire school day.

• Benningfield announced that Roger Awards will presented on Friday, Dec. 14, at 1:30 p.m. in the TCMS gymnasium.

• The personnel report includes new hires Donna Williams, TCES principal; Latisha Yates, speech/language pathologist; Alison Lee, TCHS assistant swim coach; and Carolyn Bennett, certified substitute. TCES speech/language pathologist Shaina Eubank resigned.