Auditor General finds SUSD’s finances, students performing well

The Arizona Auditor General’s Office finds that in fiscal year 2017, Scottsdale Unified School District performed on par or better financially than other metropolitan school districts its size, officials there say.

In its annual review of Arizona’s more than 200 public school districts, the Auditor General grades the district’s overall financial stress level as “low,” according to a press release.

The report also shows that SUSD students continue to make academic progress, outpacing students in peer districts and statewide on state assessments in math, English language arts and science.

Scottsdale Unified School District headquarters is at 7575 E. Main Street. (file photo)

They continue to benefit from the skills of an experienced teaching corps that averages 14 years in the classroom, the press release stated.  Average teacher salaries in SUSD outpace those of peer districts and the state.

Transportation costs were a bright spot in 2017, down 13 cents per mile, making SUSD expenses comparable with those of peer districts. The cost per rider went down, too, by $136, which the Auditor General calls a “low” level of spending.

District Transportation Director Jeff Cook says the reductions are the result of consolidating bus routes to make them more efficient. He says the full effect of that action should show in next year’s report.

“I am extremely proud to of SUSD’s continuing track record of academic success,” Acting Superintendent Dr. Amy Fuller said in a prepared statement.

“The district’s overall financial good health is positive, as well. Now it is up to us to keep that progress going. I am confident we are up to the task.”

The Auditor General’s report did find some increased administrative costs in 2017 that SUSD Interim Chief Financial Officer Dr. Doug Virgil identifies as one-time costs that will not happen again this year.

They included an increase in vacation and sick leave buy-outs for retiring employees, the payment of a workers’ compensation insurance premium payment from a different account, costs associated with the November 2016 bond and capital override election, and the buyout of a district copy machine maintenance contract.

Those one-time costs made for a 5.4 percent increase in administrative costs. Had they not been incurred, Dr. Virgil says the increase would have amounted to less than 0.1 percent.

Overall, per pupil operational spending was higher in SUSD in 2017, up from $7,820 in 2016 to $7,941, exceeding the peer average by nearly $330 per student, the press release stated.

“The bottom line is that SUSD has a very positive and favorable financial standing,” Dr. Virgil said in a prepared statement. “It is very fortunate to have the deep tax base that it has and the support of the community to fund its educational priorities.”

For the Arizona perspective, please go to: https://www.azauditor.gov/sites/default/files/18-203_Report_No_Pages.pdf

The Scottsdale Independent is published monthly and mailed to 75,000 homes and businesses in Scottsdale.

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