With the recent fiscal year concluded, Chadron Public Schools need to hire an auditing firm drew a desire to “send a message” about what board members saw an astronomical contract rate.
GLR was the only accounting firm to submit bids for the job and proposed a contract that locked in rates for three years, with the 2016-17 audit costing the district $21,700. The next two years take small increases for fees of $22,300 and $22,900.
The district already saw a $5,000 increase in audit fees from the 2014-15 school year to the 2015-16 school year, according to the school’s business manager Sara Taylor.
Superintendent Dr. Caroline Winchester said one of the influencing factors in the increase is a new requirement that the district’s audit includes a review of the daily attendance procedures.
Regardless, the board was dismayed at the proposed figure and discussed approving only one year of the contract and rebidding it next year, hoping to draw more competition with lower bids.
“I think that’s a message to the firm,” said board member Jim O’Rourke, who called both the hourly rate for the auditor and the one-year contract figure ridiculous.
Winchester and Taylor both informed the board that accepting only a one-year term with GLR may put the district in a position of spending more money than the current bid in future years. Unknown changes in state and federal rules could impact future bids, Winchester said, while Taylor noted that changes the district is already aware of for the 2019 audit could definitely cause the fee to increase dramatically.
“I think it’s worth doing just for the message. Yeah, it might be another $1,000,” O’Rourke said, adding that while it’s a risk it could also save the district money.
A motion to accept GLR’s three-year proposal was retracted after the discussion, and O’Rourke moved to award the firm a one-year contract instead. That motion failed 2-4, with only O’Rourke and Boone Huffman supporting it. The motion to award the three-year contract was then re-introduced and passed 4-2.
“I’m concerned about setting the district up to spend more money,” said Board President Tom Menke.
In other business, the district is set to begin the new school year today (Aug. 16) with an increased enrollment over last year.
All of the building principals reported Monday that enrollments were still arriving in their offices, but the primary, intermediate and high school buildings all looked to see significant spikes in enrollment, while the middle school was on track to remain steady or increase slightly from last year.
According to reports submitted to the board, the primary school had 212 students last August and Principal Libby Uhing said her building could have as many as 225 this year. The intermediate school’s attendance as of Monday was going to be 138, up from 117 last year, and the high school was projecting an enrollment of 263, up from 251. The middle school projected an enrollment of 280, level with last year’s attendance.
All of the principals noted that the figures remain estimates until the first day of class.
High School Principal Jerry Mack said several of the families he’s dealt with are from the greater Panhandle and southern South Dakota area in search of the academic rigor for which Chadron has become known.
In spite of the increase in students, Intermediate Principal Bill Cogdill assured board members that his building is capable of handling the class sizes, though the use of para-professionals will be important in that effort.
“These are not the biggest classes we’ve had in Chadron history. They are the biggest we’ve had in awhile. We will be okay,” Codgill said.
Editor's Note: This version corrects when the district saw an increase in audit costs by $5,000. The original article stated the jump was included in the bid for the 2016-17 audit, but it was actually last year that saw that hike increase. We apologize for the error.