Audit: Truman sees turnaround

TRUMAN – For the past several years, the Truman Schools audit has been a sore spot, but not this time around.

The school board received some good news this week when its audit showed the district had a positive general fund balance of $129,022 for the 2012-2013 school year.

“Truman has been … in debt most of the last 14 years, with the exception of a couple years,” Superintendent Tom Ames told the Sentinel.

The last time Truman Schools had a positive general fund balance was June 30, 1999. Once a district’s unreserved general fund balance exceeds a designated deficit amount, the state considers that school in statutory operating debt. It’s a status familiar to Truman in 11 of the past 12 school years, according to Ames.

Part of the district’s successful turnaround stems from an operating referendum voters passed, but the superintendent also acknowledged the school system has been “economizing on all fronts.”

In other words, the school, like many others in its position, has made cuts. Ames was quick to note that while the district has made reductions, it has still maintained its core programming, while continuing to offer foreign language classes at the elementary level, art, physical education, college calculus, etc.

The positive audit report comes as Truman struggles with declining enrollment. In September, the Sentinel reported enrollment at Truman Public was down 19 percent from last school year, a trend attributed to families moving, open enrollment, and fewer kindergarteners than graduating seniors.

As of Sept. 10, there were 199 students enrolled, down from 245 last year.

One effect of the decrease in numbers was already made obvious at this week’s school board meeting, when the board unanimously agreed to ask Granada-Huntley-Each Chain to enter into an agreement to pair up the two schools’ girls basketball programs.

“The athletic committee indicated that they believe the low number of participants in girls basketball in grades 9-12 is insufficient and that immediate action is needed,” Ames informed the Sentinel.

In a statement, Ames wrote: “The Truman School District, as it is attempting to do with girls basketball, will continue to pursue opportunities to work collaboratively with neighboring schools to provide quality instructional and extra-curricular programs for students. It is a credit to the hard work of the Board of Education, the dedication of the school staff, and the support of the residents of the District that the Truman School System has moved to the healthiest financial position it has experienced in the last 14 years, while at the same time experiencing enrollment decline. Nevertheless, the Truman School District will spend a significant amount of time this winter and spring exploring staffing, program, sharing, technology and other options for the upcoming school year and beyond.”

Truman residents will be sifting through all this information and more when they head to the voting booth next month for a referendum. The district is seeking $125,000 per year for 10 years to assist with capital projects that include upgrading playground equipment and technology; replacing the roof, ceiling and sidewalks; improving gym ventilation; tuckpointing; and maintaining mechanical systems.