By Jason Wesseldyk
Otsego Public Schools’ annual audit wasn’t perfect … but it was pretty darn close.
The audit, which was presented at a recent Board of Education meeting, landed within 0.02 percent of the projected budget.
“The auditor stated it was an extremely clean audit with no recommendations for improvement,” OPS superintendent Jeff Haase said. “In addition, the auditor said it is very unusual to see a proposed and amended budget fall within less than a half percent, especially on a $29-million budget. That is extremely impressive.”
Haase credited the work done by OPS director of finance Meredith Weathers as a key factor in the budget’s precision.
After more than 30 years in public accounting, Weathers came to OPS in early 2019 and helped the district successfully navigate through the COVID pandemic. She also oversees food service and assists with operations.
“On behalf of the district, I’m extremely grateful to have Meredith as part of our team as she works tirelessly to ensure our budget is balanced and funds are available for our students and programs,” Haase said.
“The past few years have been extremely difficult as districts across the state have received additional funding for COVID-19 relief and learning loss. Meredith has been at the forefront of how these funds should and can be used with a number of her colleagues reaching out to her for guidance. She is truly an asset to other finance directors in this county as she is willing to assist and help.”
Accounting coordinator Deb Wesaw and payroll and benefits coordinator Shannon Walantyn assist Weathers in several areas, including making preparations for the audit. Wesaw has been with the district more than 18 years, while Walantyn has been with the district for more than five years.
“Deb and Shannon do a great job,” Haase said.
Weathers and Haase use trends in student enrollment from the previous few years along with proposed School Aid Budget from the state to determine the budget for each year.
“(Determining the School Aid Budget) could be a guess as our fiscal year ends on June 30 and the state budget ends September 30,” Haase said. “So, we budget conservatively and then do a budget amendment with the board once we have the official School Aid Budget. We also look at personnel increases (wages and benefit increases) and possible retirements.”
The work done by Weathers and others at OPS regarding the budget has allowed the district to build a fund balance of approximately $4.2 million.
“It wasn’t that long ago—about eight years—when the district would borrow more than $4 million to meet our operational expenses,” Haase said. “We were able to move away from borrowing dollars to meet our operational expenses about four years ago and have been able to build our current balance since that time.”