Plante and Moran gave Ann Arbor Public Schools a clean fiscal year 2017 financial audit with no findings. Just as importantly the audit highlights the real progress the district made in a wide variety of areas to enhance the education experience for students.
Superintendent Jeanice Swift says Thanksgiving is an appropriate time to review the audit, because AAPS has a lot to be thankful for this year. She thanks teachers, support staff, administrators, parents and the strong support from the community that has made improvements possible. These enhancements during fiscal year 2017 include adding intervention specialists, reductions in class sizes particularly at middle and high school levels, greatly reducing the number of split level classrooms, and completing implementation of Project Lead the Way into all buildings.
The Ann Arbor community can take credit for many of the improvements thanks to passing a variety of ballot questions over the years including the 2015 Bond, Tech Bond, and Sinking Fund Millage. In total this provided $12.8 million in locally generated funds in fiscal year 2017. Trustee Jeff Gaynor agrees everyone in the district can be thankful to the community. “I want to echo Dr. Swift’s appreciation and thanks to the community for voting on the tax revenue through bonds and sinking funds so that we can do these special things that aren’t available so readily to other districts, so we owe a debt to them,” he says.
While the audit highlights many of the enhancements, also evident throughout the document are costs related to the Allen Elementary flood. While most of the costs were reimbursed the district did have indirect costs associated with renting West Middle School in Ypsilanti, providing additional transportation, and other day-to-day costs. Overall, the district spent approximately $1.3 million of one-time expenses related to the Allen flood last school year. Swift says overall the audit shows a successful year in AAPS. “When we consider that we managed the Allen Flood event disaster, on top of these great resources that we were able to put in for students, I would put this fiscal year in the ‘W’ column, it was a win for children, and it was a win for our community,” she says.
Many positives are highlighted in the audit, but the district did have to dip into reserves for the first time since 2014. For fiscal 2017, the district took about $1.6 million from fund equity after growing reserves by more than $12.6 million in the previous two years.
Plante and Moran’s Laura Claeys says there are challenges AAPS must pay attention to going forward. This includes the constant balancing act between offering additional programing and gauging the cost and demand for these programs. Claeys also says it’s important to consider state funding and pay attention to recurring expenses. Finally she warns infrastructure needs must be addressed. “You’re in a situation now where maybe you’re catching up on items that had been deferred over a period of time, and then you’ll be in a situation where you want to keep up on those capitol investments to make sure the buildings are in the best shape possible for the students,” she says.