Winona Area Public Schools received a passing grade — with flying colors — from an independent auditor at Thursday night’s school board meeting.
Craig Popenhagen, a principal with CliftonLarsenAllen LLP, issued a clean audit of the district’s financials — no small feat with all of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I consider this a very clean audit,” Popenhagen said.
The district grew its unrestricted fund balance to a little less than $4 million — or about 11.6 percent of the district’s annual expenses. That is a major increase from just a few years ago, when the district’s fund balance dipped below $2 million — less than 5 percent of annual expenses — and aligns with a school board policy that says the district should strive to keep 10 percent in reserves.
The increase is a result of a series of difficult decisions by both board members and WAPS administrators to align the budget with enrollment and other needs. Popenhagen also said that COVID relief funding helped the district preserve the balance as much as it could while the district still needed to purchase things such as personal protective equipment and additional technology to keep educating students during the pandemic.
Popenhagen was also complimentary of the work done by the School Nutrition and Community Education departments, two areas of the budget that were “turned upside down” more than others due to the pandemic. He called the increase in the community service fund balance “remarkable” considering that tuition and fees were dramatically reduced from previous years.
Director of Finance Sarah Slaby also gave a financial presentation as part of the district’s Truth in Taxation hearing, which is required by statute.
The overall school district levy, which is set in part by a state formula, decreased by a little less than $100,000 from the previous year.