Northwestern Lehigh school district on solid financial ground

Posted: 10:36 PM EST Jan 15, 2014   Updated: 9:13 AM EST Jan 16, 2014
Northwestern Lehigh school board meeting

The Northwestern Lehigh School Board welcomed in the New Year with a positive audit review and successful bond refinancing.

The auditors finalized their general audit last week without any concerns raised.

They concluded that the state of the school district's finances was solid.

The school board was found to be in compliance with expectations and they received positive comments about the staff’s friendly nature and helpful demeanor.

In past years, the District was asked to make some corrections.

This year, besides finding Northwestern in compliance, the audit also commended the school district for implementing the corrections.

The Board made it known that the district asked the auditors about implementing different audit cycles based on the board's past performance.

They asked, for example, if it would be possible to increase the time span between audits to over a year for Northwestern because of their solid reputation.

Concerns about the increased burden and cost of audits seemed to drive this request.

Budget cuts for the auditors decreased their hourly budget to 115 hours to be in the school.

But although the auditor spends less time in person, the process remains the same in length.

This shifts the burden to the District, causing the school to spend more time and money on the auditing process.

Superintendent Mary Anne Wright highlighted the fact that the auditor working remotely created a lot of wasted time, because documents were sent multiple times or there would be multiple correspondences for one document transfer.

The annual general audit process took about a month, and was carried out from December to January.

The solid state of the school district's finances was reinforced when the Board was updated on their efforts to refinance bonds.

Bonds issued in 2008 were refinanced for around $962 thousand. Approximately $170 thousand of that was attributed to the Districts rating change from AA- to AA.

This is the second year in a row that Northwestern Lehigh’s ratings had improved. In order to refinance bonds, schools must undergo a rating based on tax history and fund balances, among other considerations.

The AA rating contributed to the high price for the refinanced bonds.

The refinancing will close out on Feb. 1 with closing costs of $148 thousand, leaving a net gain of about $814,700,000.

The Board voted to pay the closing costs with money from the general fund. Annual savings from this refinancing are predicted to be around $100 thousand for the next few years.

The school board welcomed more positive news during this meeting.

They learned Northwestern is one of five area schools to receive the honor of College Honor Roll by the College Board.

The District surpassed tens of thousands of schools in the United States and Canada because of their increase of enrollments and testing in Advanced Placement classes.

The Board expressed gratitude to the teaching staff that worked hard to expand class options while maintaining high performance.