Auditor says SSISD 'a very healthy school district financially'
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

January 16, 2004 -- The Sulphur Springs Independent School District was praised Monday by a representative of the firm that conducted an independent audit of the district's finances.

Mike Taylor of Rutherford, Taylor and Company called SSISD a "very healthy school district financially," based on data compiled for the district's annual financial and compliance report for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2003.

The total cost of all programs and services totaled $29.9 million, 61 percent of which went to instruction and related staff and student services. Taylor indicated that was a very high figure for a district the size of SSISD when factoring in growth, overhead and maintenance of facilities and classroom instruction.

Base tax collections, which reflects current and delinquent collections, was at 100.1 percent, with another 0.8 percent added to the total collection from penalties and interest assessed on tax collections.

The expenditures for the general fund were budgeted at $22.8 million, but came in at $22.1 million, leaving a fund balance of about $725,000 in the general fund.

"The district has a very healthy fund balance, a very good fund balance," Taylor said.

He explained that fund balances are important because property taxes don't usually start flowing in until November, so the district must either use its reserves to fund operations at the beginning of the year or find alternate methods of paying the bills in September and October.

"If you did not have a healthy fund balance, you would have to do like some of your neighboring districts and borrow for operations those months," Taylor said. "You don't want too much fund balance or the state will take away from what you are receiving. You have a very healthy school district financially."

Only one problem area was noted, an item that indicated the district over-expended in nine of the 19 functional expenditure categories as projected for the yearly budget. Essentially, some areas required more funding than anticipated, and the budget had to be amended with funds from one area transferred to another to cover the unexpected costs.

One such area was food service operations, which required more funding than originally budgeted due to necessary equipment repairs and upgrades. A total of $54,00 in funds was transferred to the budget to accommodate the excess expenditures, leaving the end balance close to the budgeted amount, Taylor explained. District officials indicated that raising lunch prices and increased enrollments this year could help the food service budget break even at the conclusion the 2003-2004 school year.

A separate audit of the $4.3 million in federal aid the district receives found that the district met all material aspects applicable to each federal program.

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