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Audit reveals positive financial year for WASD despite virus

The Williamsport Area School District ended the last fiscal year on a positive note financially, in spite of, or perhaps because of, the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the report from representatives of Baker Tilly who conducted the final audit for the district.

The results of the audit were reported by the accounting firm and then approved by the school board at their meeting Tuesday held virtually.

John Compton, of Baker Tilly, said that although it may seem contradictory to what would be expected in the unprecedented situation caused by the health crisis, the 2019-20 fiscal year was actually a good one financially for most school districts.

“Our firm does a significant amount of work in this area and we’ve found that most schools have had expenditure savings tied back to the closing of the schools on March 13,” he said.

He attributed it to the fact that there were certain budgeted expenditures from the date of closure until the end of the school year that just were not incurred because schools were shutdown.

“The end result was your revenues exceeded your expenditures,” he said. “Think of that as one of the silver linings.”

Touching on the highlights of the audit, Compton noted that in terms of the general fund balance there was an increase of $2.7 million. He said that was due in large part to the expenditure savings caused by the school closure.

Compton explained that the general fund balance is an accounting term which is the difference between the assets and liabilities of the general fund at a point in time, which was the end of the last fiscal year, June 30, 2020. It is the reserve that the district carries into the next fiscal year. Portions of the fund balance are committed to specific uses while other amounts are unassigned.

Districts typically keep two months of operating expenses in the fund balance.

In comparing the budget versus actual figures for 2019-20, Compton told the board that the actual revenues came in at $91,823,000. The budgeted amount had been set at $91,951,000, which is within one-tenth of one percent of the budgeted revenues.

“It’s virtually spot-on,” Compton said.

He added that local sources of revenues were $460,000 short of budget, while state and federal sources were about $332,000 more than what had been budgeted.

Expenditures on the other hand, came in at about $2.7 million under budget with the significant savings occurring in the physical plant area, Compton said. About $1.1 million was saved from the closing of district buildings during the shutdown, $214,000 from transportation and students activities, $223,000.

Compton added that these categories are typically where the savings took place in other districts that they have conducted audits.

In summarizing the audit, with the increase in the general fund balance bringing the total to $20.3 million, Compton stated, “We think that’s a good financial position to be in.”

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