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Lincoln County Schools in good shape financially

An annual audit of the Lincoln County School District’s finances shows accounts ending in the green, with a fund balance increase and only one minor purchasing mistake corrected by a change in the policy book.

The school board recently voted to accept the findings of a fiscal year 2017 audit that revealed the district’s fund balance increased by $2.08 million between 2016 and 2017, and that long-term debt fell by almost $680,000 as the result of principal payments on district loans. The audit was finalized on March 20 by CPAs at Lowery, Payn and Leggett, who are contracted to provide the district with auditing services for the next two years.

“The school district is in great shape financially,” said CPA Sharon Payn. “That’s a very strong fund balance.”

The audit listed the district’s total tax-funded revenues for 2017 at $25,005,275, with more than $16 million coming from state funds provided through the Mississippi Adequate Education Program and $5,250,348 collected in local county taxes. Another $2.6 million came from federal sources, and the district made almost $928,000 off 16th Section leases.

The district spent almost $23 million on the year, with $13.2 million of that amount going to instruction. Teachers’ salaries make up the majority of instruction costs at over $12.5 million. The remaining difference was $2,080,976 to the good.

“I inherited a sound financial situation and I’m determined to maintain that and be a wise steward of tax dollars,” said superintendent Mickey Myers.

Myers said the district will not seek an increase in local tax dollars for the fiscal year 2019 budget, planning for which has already begun. Last year, Lincoln County schools received a 4 percent increase in ad valorem taxes that resulted in an approximately $400,000 funding increase.

Combining buildings, improvements, desks, computers and all forms of property puts the districts worth in capital assets at $34.2 million.

The district is paying $1.9 million in bonds, and more than half of that amount is payable within one year, meaning board members in the near future will be free to consider reallocating payments into other programs or borrowing more for improvements.

“Looks like in about three years your long-term debt will be paid, so you can use that money to do something else,” Payn said.

The district’s audit was free of financial or federal findings, though one state-level mark was recorded for an instance the district failed to secure a bond from a construction company prior to awarding a contract. The district’s policy on contracting was amended to reinforce those rules.