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Auditor warns schools on excess spending

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District has spent $1.6 million over budget in past two years

By Shannon Brock

During the past fiscal year, Anderson County Schools spent $1.1 million more than it had budgeted — a habit that, if not broken, could be devastating to the district, Auditor Denise Keen cautioned at Monday night’s board of education meeting.
“You need to take a hard look at your budget,” Keen told the board members. “You cannot afford another $1 million (in excess spending).”
Keen’s audit covered the board’s budget from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010, and included information that first-year Superintendent Sheila Mitchell expected to hear.
With cuts from the state and the discontinuation of federal funds and other grant money, added to other increasing expenses, Mitchell said Tuesday morning that she knew the district would have to take an in-depth look at its spending habits.
“We were aware,” Mitchell said, adding that one of her first tasks as superintendent was establishing a budget committee.
That committee first met in September and will meet again soon, Mitchell said.
The committee is tasked with examining the district’s spending patterns over the last five years, starting with last year, she said.
This was the first year Keen performed the district’s audit, but she said during Monday’s meeting that she went back to the 2008-09 audit and saw the district had overspent by around $500,000 that year.
Since meeting with Keen before Monday’s meeting, Mitchell said she and Finance Officer Nick Clark have started looking at last year’s budget.
“We’re looking really close [asking] what were the expenses and which areas were they in,” she said.
So far, there is not one specific area of the general fund budget that sticks out more than the rest, Mitchell said.
The expenses seem to be spread out in smaller amounts over several areas.
“But those numbers really add up,” she said.
The board is required by the state to have a 2 percent contingency fund. At the end of last year, the district had approximately $1.4 million in its contingency fund, which amounted to about 2.2 percent, Mitchell said.
Districts typically like to keep a higher contingency percentage than is required.
In other business, Open Hands Food Pantry Director David Montgomery appeared before the board to propose an agreement about five or six buses that are kept at a lot near the pantry.
Montgomery said he hoped the agreement would decrease the district’s need to build or purchase a new bus garage.
Currently the buses are kept in the lot at the food pantry at no charge. However, Montgomery proposed the district rent the lot from the pantry for a small fee of $1 or $5 per month.
“Whatever the lawyers come up with,” Montgomery said.
Renting the space should allow any damage that occurs to the buses to be covered by the district’s insurance, he said.
He also proposed that the district take over maintenance of the lot and said he would appreciate if the schools made an annual donation to the pantry.
Montgomery said he would allow the buses to stay in the lot no matter what the board decides.
Chairman Lee Hahn told Montgomery the district would look into his proposal and put it on a future agenda for more discussion.
Also, Superintendent Mitchell recognized several athletic achievements and academic achievements throughout the district.
Mitchell applauded the Anderson County High School football team for its success in the playoffs, four Anderson County Middle School students selected for the District 4 honors band and eight high school students selected for all-state choir.
She also recognized freshman golfer Kaitlyn Riley for qualifying for the state tournament and high-schoolers Austin Dillow and Dylan Buser for qualifying for the state cross country meet.
Mitchell congratulated the staff at Emma B. Ward Elementary School for their success in scoring in the top 12 percent of elementary schools in Kentucky on state testing.

E-mail Shannon Brock at sbrock@theandersonnews.com.