Auditor Dan Coleman gave Challis Joint School District No. 181 trustees a glowing review of the district’s finances last month, saying Business Manager Shawna Getty’s books were in better shape than some accountants’.
The school district received an unqualified opinion, the best that can be delivered, for having accurate financial information that can be relied upon as highly accurate.
“Everything checked out as it should” on the most recent audit of the district’s finances, Coleman said. The district has invested its reserves and carryover wisely. Payroll compliance is good as is publishing financial information in the local newspaper.
“The books are in very good shape,” he said.
The public might see carryover and reserve amounts as excessive, but they are not for a school district which must have cash on hand to meet expenses, Coleman said. If anything, Challis is not carrying over enough. The district carried over $93,647 in its general fund from the previous fiscal year, Coleman said, which amounts to an operating reserve of only half a month given average monthly expenses of $270,000.
“We recommend having a one and a half- to three-month operating reserve,” Coleman said, “so we’re below that.” After a $211,430 transfer in, the district’s forest reserve fund ended the year with a balance under $1.5 million, Coleman said.
How can Challis be expected to budget for a carryover of about $400,000 or a minimum of month and a half for an operating reserve, board Chairman Brett Plummer asked. That might not be possible for Challis, Coleman said.
Most people understand the need for savings as being fiscally responsible, Getty said, and voters understand that the Challis school district needs supplemental levies to make ends meet.
Getty might be unpopular sometimes with school board members, Coleman said, always saying “no, no, no” to expenditures.