Mora Public Schools revenues are down almost half a million dollars as student enrollment dropped by 32 in 2021.
Janel Bitzan, a certified public accountant with BerganKDV, presented the Mora School Board with this news and other results from the school’s annual audit on Nov. 18.
Bitzan noted that the school has had slight declines in student enrollment in the last five years of approximately 137 pupil units. From 2020 to 2021, the number of students decreased by 32. The majority of these decreases came from elementary grades one through six.
The school receives approximately $14,500 in state aid per pupil. All together, the school’s 2021 revenue from state funds decreased approximately $455,000.
Some of the elementary un-enrollments are likely COVID-19 related; either parents who did not feel comfortable with their child attending in-person school during the pandemic and/or parents who disagreed with the school board’s decision to require elementary students to wear face coverings.
The school board discussed now that some factors may bring them to reconsider the elementary mask requirement. One, is children ages 5 and up are now eligible for vaccination. The other factor is virus spread. Right now Kanabec County is a national hotspot for virus spread; if the number of cases and virus spread reduces significantly, the board may reconsider.
Board member Bob Woods said, “The suggestions that have been brought forward to the board are appreciated and I think, as we look around to other districts, they are running into the same issues. but we are mitigating as best as possible.
“I think it is very clear that we are all in favor of—at some point—getting rid of the masks … We are going to be cautious in our moves but with the goal of getting back to normal.”
Despite this decrease in enrollment revenue, the school has stayed within its budget. The school received more revenue from COVID-19-related grants, but also had fewer expenses due to COVID-related delays in projects and programs.
One finding of the audit was that due to the low level of office staff, there was a lack of segregation of accounting duties. Some duties would ideally be done by separate persons, but because of the small staff there is some overlap.
“It’s something the board should just remain aware of,” she said.
The school was found non-compliant relating to loans issued with local banks that were a type of debt that school districts are not authorized to issue.
The school had taken out four-year loans to purchase Chromebook laptops for student use. Bitzan said this kind of equipment loan is not authorized, however, leases are.
Bitzan noted this issue of non-compliance will be reported in future audits until the loans are paid off and advised that the school avoid these types of loans in the future.