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|Parish school system receives 'clean' audit; net assets increase by $3 million|
Ouachita Parish Schools' net assets increased $3 million during the 2006-07 fiscal year, giving the system a total of $134.7 million in net assets.
The local accounting firm of Luffey, Huffman and Monroe presented the 2006-07 fiscal year audit report to the Ouachita Parish School Board Thursday afternoon during its regular meeting. The firm gave the school system an unqualified, or "clean" audit.
At the end of the 2006-07 fiscal year, the school board had $21.3 million in its general fund, which is the principal operating fund of the school system.
"That's very good," said David Ray Soignier, a certified public accountant who is a partner at Luffey, Huffman & Monroe.
"Usually (others) are not that healthy and robust, but the school board's always been able to maintain a healthy fund balance," Soignier said.
Financial highlights for this past fiscal year, according to Luffey, Huffmann and Monroe, included an increase in ad valorem taxes in the general fund of $841,161 due to increased property assessments and new construction; an increase of local sales tax revenues by $980,419; and a decrease in the general fund balance by $355,328.
"That was a planned reduction on the fund balance, so it's not negative in that capacity," Soignier said, referring to the $355,329 decrease.
School board business manager Richard Garrett said the decrease in the general fund evolved because the school system wanted to use more money from its general fund to pay for more individualized instruction for parish students.
For its 2007-08 fiscal year, the school board already budgeted approximately $2.8 million more in expenditures than revenues for its general fund.
This projected excess of expenditures over revenue will decrease the general fund balance to about $17.9 million at the end of the 2007-08 fiscal year, which ends June 30.
The school board decided since it has a healthy fund balance, it would funnel more money over the next several years into classrooms to hopefully improve test scores by adding more classroom teachers and curriculum coordinators.
Garrett said the school board wanted to put more money into education, and it agreed to take it out of the fund balance to do it.
There were some minor thefts that occurred during the past fiscal year, but Superintendent Dr. Bob Webber said the school board's two internal auditors found those. The employees were terminated and the money was recovered.
"When you're dealing with schools, and you have so much cash money, theft will occur, but if you steal, you are going to get caught and you will lose your job," Webber said. "That's what happened here."
Overall, the auditing firm said the school board remains sound financially and should continue to remain strong in the future. The school board expects net assets to increase some during the current fiscal year. Also, funding from local and state sources is expected to increase this year.
Ad valorem tax collections and interest earnings on assessed property values and interest rates are all expected to increase during this fiscal year.
On top of those increases, the school board does not "anticipate any large or unusual expenditures to occur during the 2007-08 fiscal year," according to the report.