Gwinn schools receive clean audit, but fund balances keep falling

MARQUETTE – Gwinn Area Community Schools received a clean audit report this year, though its general fund balance continues to fall.

According to the audit prepared by Marquette accounting firm Anderson Tackman & Co., the district shows a balance of $227,644 in its fund balance.

Interim Superintendent Stephen Piereson said the goal for the next year was to focus on student enrollment – which has been steadily declining in the district for years – and to create a balanced budget.

“We want to run on a break-even budget,” Piereson said following the school board’s regular meeting. “It’s going to really depend on enrollment. We need to stabilize our enrollment.”

In previous years, the board has had to cut more than $800,000 to prevent a negative fund balance, meaning teachers and staff were laid off.

The board has also closed one of its two elementary schools in a bid to save more money, though some on the board believe that decision may have cost more than initially thought as parents chose to pull their kids from the district.

Piereson said the district is tackling its enrollment problem through positive messaging, trying to get the word out about the good things happening in the Gwinn school district. He said the staff and teachers have been encouraged to “spread the word” about what they do in their schools every day.

In other action, the board approved the delegation of its annual school inspection to Marquette County, rather than the state, and approved a first reading of a number of policy updates.

It also approved, effective immediately, a slate of changes to the district’s hand book concerning student suspensions, namely that suspensions lasting longer than 10 days be brought to a vote of the full board.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.