St. Martin school system gets ‘clean’ audit report

Henri C. Bienvenu

Independent auditors have given the St. Martin public school system’s financial operations a “clean” audit for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2007.

Russell Champagne with the CPA firm of Kolder, Champagne, Slaven & Co. delivered the audit report during the school board’s Jan. 9 meeting. He explained that a “clean” audit means that there were no findings of irregularities during the firm’s detailed examination of the board’s complex financial operations for the 2006-07 fiscal year.

The school system’s net assets have grown by almost $14 million over a three period and totalled $44.5 million at the end of the 2007 fiscal year while the general fund balance/surplus was $16.19 million on June 30, 2007.

Auditors have long recommended that the board strive to maintain a general fund balance that would equal three to four months of expenditure as a safeguard against catastrophic events. It costs about $4.1 million per month to operate the school system.

“This fund balance puts you in a very comfortable (financial) position,” Champagne told board members.

Board member Floyd Knott raised the issue that “some serious allegations have been made” regarding possible financial procedure violations by unnamed board employees and said he would like to see the state’s legislative auditor involved in an investigation into that issue.

But Champagne assured him that all “proper procedures have been followed” and that the legislative auditor’s office has already been notified of the situation.

Champagne also cautioned the board about new federal requirements that will go into effect beginning July 1 of this year regarding the handling of “post-retirement” benefits for former employees. He said the details are still unclear, but it appears the board may have to hire an actuary to calculate the system’s liability in providing such retiree benefits as health insurance.

“It represents a big change on how these costs are handled and could have a major impact on your system,” Champagne said.

In other finance related matters, the board authorized Supt. Richard Lavergne to began collecting information that might form the basis for a possible lawsuit over the loss of sales tax revenues during the 10-day period in November when Interstate 10 was closed due to a gas well blowout in the Atchafalaya Basin.

Several Breaux Bridge area businesses claim they suffered substantial loss of income due to the diversion of east-west traffic on the busy highway and have taken steps to file suit against the drilling company.

Lavergne said last week that it was still too early to determine the effect of the lost business on sales tax collections during the shutdown but he wanted authority to begin gathering data.

The board also approved an increase in the mileage reimbursement for employee business travel. The rate will increase from 40¢ to 44¢ per mile effective Jan. 1.

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