Frankfort Independent Schools will have a new auditor crunching the numbers.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the FIS Board of Education unanimously approved a contract with Barnes Dennig and Co. Ltd., a Cincinnati auditor that has worked with numerous school districts in Northern Kentucky, including Gallatin County, Boone County and Covington Independent.
“There are a lot of firms out there and this one comes highly recommended,” said FIS Superintendent Houston Barber. “They also won the award in Franklin County Schools, so they will be down here and from a travel perspective it won’t cost us as much.”
Barber said the firm’s transportation costs will be less than $1,000. However, the up to $18,000 total cost of the Barnes Dennig contract is roughly $6,000 more than the previous auditor, Summers McCrary and Sparks PSC, which has offices in Lexington and Winchester.
“That’s a little bit more than we are used to, but I do think given the times and where we are headed, we want to make sure we have a very strong team,” Barber added.
The school board also unanimously OK’d the fiscal 2021 tentative budget, which must be filed by May 30.
“My major comment on this (budget) is the circumstances given COVID-19 and future forecasting, there are a lot of answers that aren’t out there yet,” Barber told the board, adding it is a “very solid budget” based on 2019-20 numbers.
“But I do think we can still propel forward and be resilient in this time even in the face of potential budget cuts.”
The total budget is $12,253,080 compared to last year’s $12,600,501 — a difference of $347,421.
FIS projects a $62,000 increase in the beginning revenue balance as well as a $60,000 bump in Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding — a formula-driven allocation of state funds to local school districts — due to enrollment growth.
Local tax revenue from all sources (property, motor vehicles, utility) is expected to increase by $40,000 due to a projected utility tax hike.
Total budgeted general fund receipts are $8,700,943 compared to last year’s projection of $8,305,941.
Asked whether the tentative budget includes COVID-19 funds from the federal government, Barber said it does not include the $358,000 that the district has been assured it will receive.
As far as expenditures, salary schedules have not been increased, but experience step levels for all certified and classified staff have. Salaries are budgeted for $5,236,175.
FIS Board Chairperson Jina Greathouse asked whether current estimates forecast more in Title I funding, financial assistance through state educational agencies to schools with high numbers or percentages of students from low-income families to ensure all children meet state achievement standards.
“We’ve had some growth over the past few years, but we can’t rely on that,” Barber stated. “But we do predict we’ll get at least the same amount as last year.”
The total in budgeted expenditures, $8,361,167, is $339,776 less than budgeted receipts, leaving the district with a projected ending balance of $579,776 — equivalent to a 6.8% contingency.
Even though it is currently doing well, due to challenges presented by offsite meals, food service could be the hardest-hit area in the tentative budget.
“We have reduced a little bit in the number of meals we are serving but not enough that we’d discontinue the service,” Barber told the school board. “But that is something to consider depending on what the fall looks like.”
Barber said even though food service is still making money, he worries about the possibility that it could start to lose money.
“If we continue to serve meals the way we are doing it and we don’t get the participation rates as high as we want, that is a consideration we need to think about,” he added.
The superintendent said meals will continue as they have until at least June 30 and the board may have to reevaluate the July schedule.
The next FIS board meeting is at 6 p.m. Monday, June 8.