Thursday, November 18, 2021

Northville district receives top rating from auditors

Mary Kay Gallagher
Northville Public Schools continues to meet the highest standards for accuracy of financial statements, accountability for use of federal and state funds, and overall financial stability, according to the report presented by Plante & Moran auditors at the Oct. 26 board of education meeting. 

The auditors awarded Northville Public Schools the highest possible audit rating in rendering an “unmodified” opinion for the district financial statements and federal awards, while noting no material weaknesses or deficiencies, and qualifying the district as a low-risk auditee. 

The most recent S & P bond rating review of the district in May, 2020 cited Northville Public Schools' strong financial position, and held the District's AA-, long-term rating, despite the challenging economic environment shaped by the pandemic. 

“Watch points” for the future were noted and discussed, including retirement funding, matching revenue to costs, short-term nature of some existing revenue sources, student enrollment trends, and a potential revenue cliff in the 2023-24 school year. 

 Members of the board of education take watch points seriously, and remain mindful of the need for sound fiscal practices and the need to budget for sustainability, according to a prepared statement from Superintendent of Northville Public Schools Mary Kay Gallagher. 

The board of education members made note of several positive outcomes that are the result of sound fiscal management, utilization of grant funding, and effective use of resources, including bond and sinking fund dollars generously supported by the community:  Northville Public Schools has not asked for a tax increase over existing rates since 2011 when voters approved the initial 1.000 mill Sinking Fund Levy - which is now at .9416 mills. The district general fund performance was approximately $2.5 million favorable to the final budget in 2020-21 and the district drew down fund balance over the last year by less than 1 percent, even as teacher and staff pay was expanded and class size lowered.  That was made possible in large part by the $2.7 million of federal Corona-virus Relief Funds received by the district. 

As a result of the sufficient fund balance, the district has not had to borrow money to fill the gap in State Aid payments between August and October since 2012, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest costs over time, officials noted. 

In January 2017, Standard & Poors Global Ratings raised their underlying rating two notches to 'AA-' from 'A' on the district unlimited-tax general obligations bonds. 

Despite the challenges created during the COVID shut-down period in spring of 2020, ongoing supply chain issues, and the changing labor market, Phase 3 projects of the bond improvement program were completed this fall, including the launch of the redesigned Hillside Middle School, completion of Maker's Spaces across all six elementary schools, renovated Cooke Center program spaces, and reimagined media centers and flexible learning environments across every school, Gallagher said.