Auditor's report shows fiscally repsonsible district

Leslie Silverman

The Hill City School District is a good steward of capital outlay and program funds according to the independent auditor’s report that was shared at the most recent school board meeting.

“In capital outlay you’re seeing a fairly large increase in assets which is primarily related to reduced capital outlay expenditures, so basically the money that came in as capital outlay just didn’t get spent as capital outlay expenditures at the same level as it did in prior years,” said Megan Oeltjenbruns, who debriefed the audit to the board via phone. The general fund is negative operating amount.

“In special education assets are up about 34 percent from the prior year and primarily related to program expenditures,” Oeltjenbruns said. 

The report shows two enterprise funds—food service and the fitness center. The food service fund is running at a loss, which is “very common,” according to Oeltjenbruns, and “food service prices are just not set at a rate to make money for this fund.”

The fitness center fund shows that revenue exceeds expenses.

The middle and high schools recently participated in an ALICE drill, according to high school and middle school principal Todd Satter.

ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evaluate.

“Prior to that drill we probably spent a lot of time reviewing  what ALICE was and what the options are,” Satter said. “Kids took it seriously and staff took it seriously. I had staff send me pictures of the lockdown event.”

Satter did note problems with communication during the drill and is looking into apps that give real time data. Superintendent Blake Garner feels the district is “prepared” to face any potential security risks.

“Just the growth from where we were a decade ago, not even knowing the term ‘lockdown,’ we certainly have areas of improvement and now we’re working on how we’re going to fix those,” Gardner said. “Everyone’s involved. I think it’s sad that we have to have this conversation. I feel very confident telling you we are prepared.” 

Advanced Placement (AP) scores at the high school “across the board we do very well,” Satter said. Satter notes that when the district’s AP scores began to rise, so did the ACT scores.

“They go hand in hand,” he said. ACT scores are used by colleges for admissions.

While special education numbers have stabilized, special education director Toni Brun said the district “should see” a big spike “in numbers in the next two to three months.” 

Brun completed her crisis intervention training that gives her certification as a trainer. In regards to the training, Brun said,  “about two-thirds of it teaches you how to deal with an escalated person.” There is also a physical part of the training, which teaches how to get out of different physical situations. Interviews for a new special education teacher are taking place.

“Our after school STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) academy was a huge success. We had 68 students registered,” said elementary school principal Samantha Weaver.

Students got to work with 3D pens and coding.

She also noted the need for improvement in communication during ALICE drills.

“The teachers do a great job in terms of debriefing students,” she added. Weaver is looking into Homeland Security grants that open in January.

Board President Dennis Krull touched on a meeting Dec. 17 in Custer at 5:30 p.m. to urge lawmakers to reconsider a capital outlay levy that goes into effect in 2021.

“There’s going to be a meeting in Custer and we’re going to have the representatives from District 30 hopefully attend and we can talk again about school finances and what we would like to see,” Krull said. “One of the things we are going to try to push the capital outlay levy they have of $2,800 per student, As you all know that is going to hit the Hill City school district to the tune of almost $275,000 to $300,000.”

The meeting was set to take place at the Custer administrative building.

Food service director Roxann DuBois is handling negative food service account balances on a case-by-case basis.

“The wonderful thing about our school district is that we’re small,” DuBois said. “After getting some more information from teachers and counselors—people who are involved in their world finding out what’s going on. Where they may not have been eligible for angel funds before they probably are now. It’s not my decision alone.”

DuBois has reached out to other districts and recognizes this is a growing problem. 

“Some places like Rapid City, their deficit is outrageous and they just keep feeding kids because they don’t want to be on the front page of the newspaper,” DuBois said. “You have smaller schools that say ‘we are not going to have a negative balance and we’re not going to feed these kids.’”

DuBois also spoke of the possibility of an angel fund committee in the future.

Gardner praised the food service department for completing the South Dakota Administrative Review.

“Way to go food service,” Gardner said. “I would just like to commend the entire staff. They actually commented a lot on (DuBois’s) organization and her knowledge of policy.”

All of the fence posts are on Ranger Field although fabric still needs to be hung on them.

The board approved the county auditor’s request to use the school facilities for the 2020 election.

The board approved the sponsorship for Gins’ Gym agreement with 3G/Jeff Larson Real Estate. 

A first reading of the policy updates to policy B of the board review policy took place. The policy outlines the Associated School Boards of South Dakota recommendations concerning a designated school attorney, procedures for speaking at meetings and school board scheduling of retreats.

The next meeting of the Hill City School Board takes place on Jan. 13 at 6 p.m.

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