School finance audit OK; revenues rise

By: JEAN L. KAESS

CENTERVILLE — The St. Mary Parish School Board received an unqualified opinion on its audit for fiscal year 2011 — the highest designation that can be received.

Barbara Watts of Darnall, Sikes, Gardes and Frederick said out of three potential problem areas, minor problems were found with federal program procedures.

One was a repeat “offense” in that the school system again failed to meet the federal requirement that any school receiving Title I funds be staffed with 100 percent “highly qualified” teachers. The designation refers to how many credit hours a teacher has in his or her teaching area, among other factors.

St. Mary had 95.7 percent highly qualified teachers in its Title I schools during the recent fiscal year, up from 94.7 percent last year. The state average is 97.7 percent.

Watts noted that no school system in the state has met this requirement to date.

Total revenues were up 1.7 percent over 2010. The amount came from increases in sales and ad valorem taxes, which increased 17 and 9 percent respectively. This was offset by losses in Minimum Foundation Program funds due to a loss of students, resulting in the smaller increase overall.

Expenditures also were up, but only by .6 percent.

The total excess of revenues over expenditures amounted to $888,242.

In other financial matters, the board approved various mid-year general fund designations including $1.8 million for capital projects, $500,000 for technology, $100,000 for food service for cooler and freezer replacement (moved from the food service general fund), $200,000 to repair items repeatedly cited by the Department of Health and Hospitals at cafeterias across the parish and a reduction of $200,000 in the worker’s compensation fund.

The repairs to the cafeterias are for aged shelving that needs to be replaced where it may be rusting or repeatedly painted as in the case of some 40-year-old wooden shelving in certain areas, Superintendent Donald Aguillard explained. None of the health code violations are for unsanitary conditions, “or they would have shut us down,” he added.

Other financial needs addressed included $5,000 to fund repairs to a Patterson High School generator which experienced an electrical switchgear failure after a recent electrical outage and $6,000 to add a fire suppression system to two storage rooms at LaGrange Elementary in Franklin after the State Fire Marshal cited the school for not having adequate fire protection in two rooms in the gym.

Lastly, for the month of November, sales tax collections were 16.6 percent below the same month the previous year with actual collections of $1.26 million.

Actual year-to-date collections are $6.9 million. That is nearly 9 percent below the same point last year and 7.8 percent below budget expectations.

St. Mary Now & Franklin Banner-Tribune

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