‘Totally incredible’: Quincy School Board all smiles after positive financial report

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QUINCY — The Quincy School Board had several reasons to be in a good mood when it met Tuesday night.

It was the board’s last meeting before celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. It also heard a report from the finance committee that had long-time board member Carol Nichols gushing,

The finance committee, which met Monday, heard from Adam Withee, a partner with Zumbahlen, Eyth, Surratt, Foote and Flynn, an accounting firm from Jacksonville. He reviewed the district’s 2020-21 fiscal year audited statements. His report noted improving fund balances in the district’s key operating funds.

The education fund, the district’s largest fund, took in $3.7 million more than it spent and finished the year with a balance of $9.968 million. The operations and maintenance fund finished the year with a $2.728 million balance. The transportation fund had a $1.376 million balance. The operating funds have approximately 108 days of funds in reserve.

The district’s financial profile score improved from 3.25 last fiscal year to 3.70 in 2020-21. If a district receives a score between 3.54 and 4.00, it is in the highest category of financial strength called “Financial Recognition.” These districts require little or no review or involvement by the Illinois State Board of Education.

“I’ve been on the board for 14-plus years and never had reports like this,” Nichols said. “There were always so many findings (in the past). So many people would say, ‘If you don’t clean up your act, you’re gonna have to get another auditor next year.’

“This is totally incredible.”

Audit report listed no audit findings for third year

The audit report listed no audit findings for the third consecutive year.

“Just to point out, that’s zero findings for the school district but also zero findings for the QAVTC (Quincy Area Vocational Technical Center) and zero findings for the special ed co-op,” Superintendent Roy Webb added. “All tied together, that’s great. Ryan (Whicker, chief of business operations for Quincy Public Schools) has a lot of oversight of all those, but there’s a lot of team players.”

“Compared to some (audits) we’ve seen in the past, that’s incredible,” School Board President Sayeed Ali said. “To clean that up and get it to a point where there’s no findings … I mean, that is pretty astonishing.”

The board also voted to adopt a resolution regarding estimated amounts necessary to be levied in 2021. Whicker had calculated the levy amount based on a 4.99 percent increase in the district’s equalized assessed value, so the maximum amount possible could be collected under existing tax rates will remain below a 5 percent increase, which would require a public hearing.

Whicker estimated the tax rate at $3.95 per $100 in assessed value. He told board members to expect that number to about $3.99 when the county sets the final equalized assessed value.

“What we ran into in the past is that you can’t underestimate what you’re going to get, because then you won’t get it,” Ali said. “One year when I first started here, the business manager was estimating (the EAV increase) at 2.9, but the increase was more than that. We didn’t get any more money. We know (the EAV increase) is not going to be 4.99 percent, but we’re confident at estimating out that way so we’re not going to leave any money on the table.”

Board approves sale of surplus computers

The board also:

  • Approved the sale of surplus computers used by district teachers for the past three years. The district will be offering 350 Dell Latitude 3390 2-IN1 computers to Teksavers, a Texas-based company that sells new and refurbished IT products, for $78,750.
  • Approved bass fishing as an Illinois High School Association activity.
  • Listened to a recommendation from the District Improvement Team that would allow 2022 seniors to waive two elective credits required for graduation. The waiver would not apply to core content credits. It was proposed because this year’s seniors have had fewer intervention and credit recovery opportunities because of the disruptions and adaptations in the past two school years. The board is expected to vote on the waiver in December.

Webb gave a report consisting mostly about the beginning of high school basketball season. 

“The pommers will be there. The band will be there. The students will be there,” he said of Thursday night’s season opener. “I think we’ll have a pretty good basketball team there. It’s exciting for the community. I know it’s exciting for our Blue Devil fans. We missed it last year, having the Devil come out and pep band playing. The whole pageantry of Blue Devil tradition will be on display again. It’s exciting.”

Ali calls no public statements at start of meeting ‘Thanksgiving miracle’

Board members also had smiles on their faces at the beginning of the 25-minute meeting. It was the first meeting in quite some time during which board heard no comments from the public. Several recent meetings were opened with multiple people unloading their frustrations about the district’s COVID and mask policies.

When Ali started the meeting by opening the floor to public statements and no one stepped forward, he said, “I don’t believe it. It’s a Thanksgiving miracle.”

“I was glad to get back to more of the time I allot, about 25 to 30 minutes, in open session (for a board meeting),” Ali said afterward.

“We’ve been at it for so long (with the long public comment sessions that) it was kind of an expectation. So I don’t know what to think,” Webb said. “Maybe they’re saving it up for December.”

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