FarmingtonAugust 8, 2012
Report shows wide scope of district’s ‘financial data gatekeepers’
By David Wallace
C & G Staff Writer
FARMINGTON — Farmington Public Schools’ Business Services Department impressed the Board of Education with its broad range of responsibilities at the board’s midsummer meeting July 24.
The department, which handles budget and financial matters, has a simple goal.
“Our ultimate goal is to make sure that staff are able to take home their paycheck every two weeks and that they don’t have a concern that the district does not have the resources to meet the payroll,” said Executive Director Mary Reynolds.
In serving that function, the department must deal with a wide range of reporting requirements while navigating changing laws.
“We’re considered the gatekeepers of all the financial data, and the majority of financial data required to be reported through the variety of entities, whether it’s with the federal government, the state of Michigan, the Department of Education — you name it, we report the information,” said Reynolds.
The department’s year-end report includes 27 bullet points denoting the various reports the department processes. Not all of them are annual reports; some are monthly or quarterly.
“I think people would be absolutely boggled at the volume of reports and reporting, and just compliance issues that are, total, in the tens or maybe even hundreds of thousands of pages that come out of your office and are done in a way that’s properly reflective of the excellence that this district is known for,” said Board President Frank Reid.
Treasurer Priscilla Brouillette said the year-end report brings valuable perspective.
“On and on in this report, there’s areas that just are kind of mindboggling, and I feel like the whole community would be amazed to read some of it,” said Brouillette. “One of the things that really struck me was under nutrition services, which is a little bit of a different umbrella, but our nutrition services department served 710,508 lunches and 111,683 breakfasts, and of those counts, approximately 51.5 percent of lunches and 74 percent of breakfasts were either free or reduced.
“I think that is significant for us to just recognize. Not the budget implications of the food or serving the food, but the additional challenges inherent in that,” she said, referring to economic disadvantages.
Reynolds said the Business Services Department helps the district with new state requirements, for example, meeting new best-practices reporting requirements to receive state funding last year.
“We’ve weathered the (federal) Department of Education’s storm, as I like to call it, this year as we went through two audits of federal programs, which included (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) in special education, as well as the Title I audit,” said Reynolds. Title I provides federal money to schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families.
“We also constantly look for cooperatives that will help save money for the district,” said Reynolds.
Members of the department testified in an ongoing lawsuit regarding state reporting requirements that school districts feel comprise an unfunded, and therefore illegal, mandate.
“We’ve also used Public Surplus to auction unused district equipment,” said Reynolds, referring to a government-auction website.
Reynolds said purchasing supervisor Julie Yelick worked with the district’s information technology folks to review copier usage and contracts.
“Just this year alone, she’s saved approximately $54,000 on those copy contracts,” said Reynolds.
The department belongs to various school business associations.
“We believe that the participation in these groups enhances our work and provides the means to increase efficiency by collaborating with our peers,” said Reynolds.
The report is available through the July 24 Board of Education agenda packet, which can be downloaded through the Board of Education page at www.farmington.k12.mi.us. The report comprises packet pages 12-17.
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