Satisfactory audit for school board, raises levy by 5 percent due to enrollment

By : 
Jordan Gerard

Though three deficiencies were found in the audit for Spring Grove School District, the firm gave the district a clean audit. 

The deficiencies found by Clifton, Larsen, Allen (CLA) Wealth Advisors, LLC included “oversight of the financial reporting process,” “controls over cash receipts” and “controls over timely completion of bank reconciliations.” They were considered to be “material weaknesses.”

Superintendent Rachel Udstuen said administrative staff was discussing solutions to the mentioned deficiencies.

Two Minnesota legal compliance findings were reported. One concerned student activity financial statements, and the other concerned a conflict of interest. 

Justin Fahse of CLA said the financial statements are “fairly stated, except for such adjustments, if any, as might have been determined necessary had the cash collections been susceptible to satisfactory audit tests.”

In other words, it means graduating class accounts from prior school years need to be cleared out. Leftover funds in those accounts usually go toward the class composites that hang in the hallways.

It also related to three activity accounts with negative balances, which could be a result of outstanding checks.

The second compliance finding reminded board members to abstain from the vote if a conflict of interest arose, such as if they have familial relations with those mentioned in hiring contracts.

Otherwise, the audit reported the district has $1.5 million in the general fund for year ending June 30, 2018. They have $1.1 million in the “Unassigned Nonspendable” account.

In the final approved budget, the school budgeted for about a $40,000 decrease, which had good results. The decrease is due to personnel, as health insurance is budgeted for, but some employees do not take it. The unspent money provides a cushion for next year.

A conveniently laid out pie chart showed the school receives 76.8 percent of its general fund revenue from state sources. Spring Grove ranks average with other schools in Minnesota receiving state funding.

Other revenue comes from local property taxes (12.21 percent), federal sources (3.09 percent) and other (7.9 percent). The “other” category would be grants, such as the $150,000 Bush Foundation grant received.

Another pie chart showed 72.9 percent of the General Fund Expenditures were spent on salaries and benefits. Purchased services, like curriculum, ranked next at 19 percent; 4.9 percent is spent on supplies; 1.9 percent is spent on “other;” and 1.3 percent is spent on capital.

The board approved the audit.

2018-19 budget, levy

During its Truth and Taxation meeting, the board approved a 5.1 percent increase to the levy, which is equal to a positive $30,681 increase.

“That’s because of increased student enrollment,” Superintendent Rachel Udstuen said. “That’s a wonderful thing.”

Indeed, enrollment was up by 10 students, she reported the same night. The projected enrollment was 348 for the 2018-19 school year, and it currently sits at 358.

Last year’s levy was $601,355 and with the increase it comes up to $632,037.

Principal’s report

In her principal’s report, Nancy Gulbranson announced the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) would test fourth graders in reading or math in February. 

Spring Grove was selected, as were other schools in Minnesota and the nation. The next closest school selected was in the Winona Area Public School District.

If parents do not wish for their students to take the test, signing a form can opt them out. If no form is signed, students are automatically tested.

According to their website, NAEP is “the only assessment that measures what U.S. students know and can do in various subjects across the nation, states, and in some urban districts.” It’s also known as The Nation’s Report Card, and has been testing students since 1969. 

It is a congressionally mandated project administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the website also said. 

In addition, results are reported for groups of students with similar characteristics (e.g., gender, race and ethnicity, school location), not individual students. 

Find results of previous tests on their website at https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/.

A second survey will be given to students in grades 3, 5, 8, 9 and 11 from the state of Minnesota. That survey is the Minnesota Student Survey, and comes from the Minnesota Department of Education.

It is the “most consistent” source of data about health and well-being of students for the past 30 years.

It is also a voluntary survey that asks students about “ their activities, opinions, behaviors and experiences. Students respond to questions on school climate, bullying, out-of-school activities, health and nutrition, emotional and mental health, relationships, substance use and more,” the website said.

Find more information at https://education.mn.gov/MDE/dse/health/mss/.

Gulbranson announced a J-term student, Preston Schultz from Luther College would observe fourth grade teacher Sarah Tollefsrud’s classroom. Schultz can observe and help out in the classroom, she said.

Samantha Steele of Caledonia will also be completing her student teaching with sixth grade teacher Matt Rosaaen and K-1 class with Jill Bjerke. Steele is currently enrolled in the education program at Winona State University.

Finally, Gulbranson told the board another session of early childhood screening would be held again in March or April 2019.

The screening is necessary for students to enter kindergarten. Ages three, four and early five-year olds are tested on what they would know at that age. 

Superintendent’s report

Udstuen announced a construction update. The flooring is laid down, most of the bathroom fixtures are in, she said. 

Concrete for the new entryway would be poured once the landscaping grades were doubled checked. 

The office furniture arrives on Jan. 14, so staff expects to move in after that.

Several board members are attending Minnesota School Board Association trainings. Spring Grove will also be showcased during that conference in the “Schools of Excellence.”

Personnel report

Custodian Rick Sundet submitted his resignation to the board, which was approved. The district thanked him for his many years of service.

The board approved Rachel Storlie as a long-term substitute for Bethany Engen, who is on maternity leave.

The board also approved Mark Potvin from Luther College as an artist-in-residence for Engen’s senior high choir. Potvin is the Luther College Choral Director. The school will use a Patron of the Arts fund to bring Potvin in to work with students on an in-service day.

Angel Fund

The board discussed, but did not take action on the creation of an “angel fund.” An angel fund is an account for people to donate money to pay for students’ lunch accounts. 

Students who applied for free and reduced lunch but didn’t qualify would receive the funds to pay for lunch.

Udstuen said a few people a year want to donate money for this purpose, however, the school doesn’t quite have the proper account and the district doesn’t “want to sit on the money.”

The parameters would be the student has a free and reduced meal application on file, but didn’t qualify; the school will match the family’s payment on account dollar-for-dollar up to $50; the angel fund will only subsidize lunches (ala carte/seconds is family’s responsibility); and the family can only access these funds twice per school year.

Milk breaks for elementary students are handled differently and would not qualify under the angel fund.

Udstuen said there would potentially be times when there is no money in the fund.

The board liked the idea, and Udstuen would bring a more fine-tuned policy back at a later meeting.

New lawnmower/snow blower

The board approved the purchase of a new John Deer 1025R sub-compact utility tractor for the amount of $24,851 from Sema Equipment in Caledonia.

The current tractor has multiple issues, making it difficult for custodians to maintain the grounds and clear sidewalks in the winter. The old one will be traded in to Sema Equipment.

The new one will have several attachments, including a pallet fork, lawn bagger, sidewalk broom.

Other news

The board approved the staff seniority list, which saw some changes. The seniority list will now be in order according to the hire date. The hire date is defined as when the board approved the hire.

The board also approved reviewing the cooperative agreement with Caledonia Area School District every July.

Along with the yearly review approval, the board approved rates for the agreement. An athletic coop between two schools will cost $1,670 per coop sport; between three schools (e.g.: Caledonia/Spring Grove/Houston) will cost $1,113 per coop sport, an activities coop (robotics, speech) will have the total costs specific to an activity divided by the number of participants and finally, courses via technology (ITV, Skype) will be a flat rate of $250 per student.

Next meeting

The next meeting of the Spring Grove School Board will be held Jan. 22, at 7 p.m.