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By David Knopf/Richmond News
Richmond School Board on Tuesday received a generally glowing report on the district’s financial health from auditor Richard Westbrook, who described the turnaround as “nothing short of amazing.”
Westbrook, a local resident whose firm Westbrook & Co. provides audit services for around 40 school districts, was referring to R-XVI improving its reserve funds from a low of 5 percent of operating budget in 2010 to almost 30 percent in 2012.
As revenues have decreased, so has spending – but at a more dramatic clip. In 2010, Westbrook said the district received $15.308 million in revenue and spent $15.770 million. As revenue declined to $15.094 in 2011 and $14.477 in 2012, spending fell sharply, from $14.052 million in 2011 and $12.846 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012.
“I’ve probably only seen the financial improvement I’ve seen in Richmond in a few other places,” said Westbrook, who presented a summary of the 46-page audit report for the school board. “The improvement we’ve made in the past two years is nothing short of amazing and I’m not one that gives out compliments easily.”
In controlling its spending on salaries, the physical plant and supplies and equipment, Westbrook said the district reversed course from a reserve balance that had shrunk enough to prompt Richmond in October 2010 to seek a $1 million line of credit. The money was needed, then-new Superintendent Damon Kizzire said, because the district feared not being able to meet payroll in the slow revenue months preceding the distribution of property taxes.
According to a chart of trends included in the Westbrook audit, a downward track for the districtRs cash reserves bottomed out at $759,284 5 percent of the operating budget in the audit ending June 30, 2010. Reserves climbed to $1.8 million (15 percent) the following year and then to the June 30, 2012 total of $3.432 million (29.26 percent).