Pioneer's fiscal house is in order, according to the most recent audit of district financial statements and processes, the Board of Education learned at its Sept. 20 regular meeting.
Seth Hennard, CPA, of Lumsden McCormick LLP gave a presentation in which he said his firm tested not only financial statements but also examined $5.6 million in federal funding received last year. That amount is significantly higher than most years and reflects pandemic-related aid.
Mr. Hennard said the audit found no material weaknesses or concerns. The scope of the audit included extraclassroom funds and programs that rely heavily on federal funds.
He remarked that Pioneer's unassigned fund balance stands at 12.8 percent of the 2023 general fund budget; 4 percent is the guidance recommended by the state. Likewise he noted an excess fund balance in the food service fund ($570,000).
Assistant Superintendent Nick Silvaroli explained that surplus funds are regularly put in the unassigned fund balance as a hedge against a fiscal "cliff", and no one knows when the next financial crisis facing school districts will be.
"We're in good shape now but after next year there could be problems," he said. "Even an 8 percent reserve represents 30 days' worth of operating funds."
Later Mr. Silvaroli gave his annual presentation on tax rates. He said the district's 2022-23 property tax levy of $13.83 million represents a 2.98 percent increase over the previous year, or $400,792. The 2021-22 tax rate is $11.91 per $1000, and a preliminary tax rate for 2022-23 is $11.12.
Mr. Silvaroli said the district's various municipalities assess property at different rates, and the state's Office of Real Property Services' equalization rates provide for equitable property tax allocation across taxing jurisdictions. Equalization seeks to measure the relationship of locally assessed values to the perpetually changing real estate market.
Another factor in property tax rates is any increases in the taxable value and true value of assessments across the district, he said.