During the course of the public debate on the necessity of a Voted Local Levy in the Morgan School District, we often times forget the larger picture of the financial struggles faced by the state and most districts. State Superintendent of Schools Martell Menlove stated in a community meeting in Morgan County last month that Morgan School District is not alone in facing financial challenges when it comes to balancing their budgets this year. A quick review of the state’s newspapers and television stations and you will see many headlines, news stories and editorials dealing with school finance. One example can be found on the editorial page of the Sunday, June 2, issue of the Ogden Standard Examiner.
Each month I meet with superintendents from across the state in meetings and conversation. They too struggle with federal sequestration, decreased funding, employee costs, insurance increases, tax rates, new rules associated with the Federal Affordable Health Care Act, transportation, and so forth. I know that the business administrators conduct similar meetings often and discuss the same issues and seek for solutions to the problems.
The district also follows accounting practices as outlined by the Federal Governmental Accounting Standards Board, State of Utah Auditors Office, and State Board of Education. Our books are audited yearly by an independent auditing firm that specializes in school district finances. These reports are reviewed each year by the auditors at the State Office of Education and the State Auditor’s Office. James Gilbert from Gilbert and Stewart, CPA indicated that the auditors at the USOE break down each school district budget program by program and compare them to the audited financial reports each year. From time to time a district may be experiencing some serious inconsistencies and need directive from the state. Morgan has not been one of those districts.
All districts are provided with feedback on how they can make improvements and Morgan acts on those recommendations as received. Our business administrator is respected by her peers and, with 20 years of experience, is very knowledgeable in her area of expertise. Of course, there are always things that can be changed and improved and the business administrator and board are always open to state recommendations.
The board made the difficult decision to seek voter approval for a Voted Local Levy after several years of trimming the local budget and using the available resources. Many difficult cuts and changes have taken place ranging from employee furloughs and eliminating programs, to increasing student fees.
By law, the district is required to balance their budget. This will be done regardless of the outcome of the Voted Local Levy. The levy is simply a tool that can help balance the budget and provide improved instruction to our students. That is why the board took the courageous step to present the proposition to the public in the first place.
Morgan School District is not alone in the public education finance struggle. The board is seeking direction from the public and what better way than through the power of the vote. I encourage you to examine the proposition, look at what is happening state-wide and what other districts have done to help relieve some of the stress on their budgets, and vote on June 25.
I salute the work our board and our business administrator do on behalf of the students, staff and public. Their assignments are difficult at best, and at times not understood nor appreciated.
Morgan is a wonderful community and our schools are a reflection of our high standards and expectations. All of us who serve and work in the district appreciate the opportunity of doing so and we will continue to do our best to meet the needs of the students and their families.