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Audit: Perham-Dent in the black by spending less

"It was a good year" for the Perham-Dent School District, financially speaking, according to auditor Roy Lunde.

The audit shows that budget cuts and reductions, however hard to swallow, did the job of keeping the district's budget balanced in spite of revenue shortfalls. Lunde presented his findings to the school board at a meeting last Wednesday.

"State funding is just not keeping up with the needs of the schools," Lunde said. He added that, of the 30 or so school districts he's audited this year, Perham-Dent is the only one operating without any sort of voter-approved levy.

But, by spending about $925,000 less than originally budgeted, Lunde said, the district not only broke even, it actually saw an increase in its general fund. The majority of this was saved by delaying maintenance projects (which will eventually need to be completed); the district also spent less on buildings and teaching staff.

"You've had very, very nice increases in your unreserved fund balance" over the last two years," Lunde said. He recommended continuing to build that up, rather than leaving it stagnant or spending it down. The district's ideal fund balance should be at least $2 million, he said, which the district is now getting close to.

The audit revealed one violation of state statutes, for contracting out a project without going through the legal process of seeking bids.

Wednesday was also the night for the district's Truth in Taxation Hearing. State law requires that school districts present information on proposed property tax levy increases or decreases, and allow for public comment.

The Perham-Dent levy for 2011, payable in 2012, is decreasing by 3.66 percent. No members of the public spoke on the matter.