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Lew-Port receives clean audit; Roser concerned with future

by jmaloni
Fri, Nov 2nd 2012 10:30 pm

by Janet Schultz

According to an audit, Lewiston-Porter has correctly presented its financial statements and is handling its finances in the appropriate manner.

While the financial aspect for school districts in the coming years is not positive, the way Lewiston-Porter has handled its finances, in the opinion of the auditors, is in good shape.

"You will have to look at how you handle your fund balance during the next two years," cautioned Richard Ertel, representing Amato, Fox and Company LLC.

"You have been eating away at the fund balance and, in 2014, there will be an impact," he said.

For the past several years, the school district has used its fund balance to smooth out the tax rate and keep the burden off taxpayers.

With $4 million in the fund balance, the district set aside $1.8 million to lessen the tax rate on local residents in 2012 and used only $1.6 million. It set aside $1.8 million again this year, and if its uses all or most of it, that would substantially impact the fund balance in 2014 and leave no fund balance in 2015.

The major issues facing the district are significant increases in retirement and health care benefits and a decrease in monies from the federal and state governments, plus no income.

"There aren't many places for school districts to go to obtain revenue," explained Superintendent Christopher Roser.

Lew-Port has reduced staff over the past two years, made settlements with union contracts and has cut spending in as many areas relating to program as it can, he said.

"We really are sitting OK," Roser said. "But big decisions need to be made about whether we need to go above the tax threshold.

"We are at a point where we are two years away from using our reserves and need to make some recommendations to maintain programming. We are in a precarious situation regarding the tax threshold."

Roser is going to recommend that the district go above the tax threshold in the upcoming budget.

"Your audit results are good all the way around and look good moving forward," Ertel said. "You will just have to keep an eye on the budget."

The board held a special regular board meeting following the audit meeting.

It was at that meeting the board formally accepted the audit report from Amato, Fox and Company.

It also appointed James McKeever as impartial hearing officer and approved Tyler Seelbinder as the musical production and drama production technician.

The next board meeting will be Tuesday, Nov. 20, at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Resource Center.

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