By Jim Wilkerson
An independent audit report for the fiscal year 2020 was presented to the Lincoln Parish School Board on Tuesday, July 13. Ms. Amy Tynes, who presented the report, noted that the audit had been delayed for various reasons, primarily due to the drastic transformation of the auditing process in response to COVID-19.
The audit covered hundreds of millions of dollars of expenditures and revenue and was over 100 pages long. Ultimately, the auditors found no problems with financials. The School Board has been making its debt payments on time and has received outside funds from the state and federal governments to help soften the economic blow of COVID-19.
However, total federal funds received so far are only approximately $8.2 million. The reason for this, Ms. Tynes noted, was that the CARES Act did not kick in until later in 2020. Therefore, most of the federal funds from CARES will arrive in 2021.
On a prominent note, Ms. Tynes informed the School Board that if it tried to pay back all its debt today, then it would be approximately $134 million short. A significant portion of the debt comes from the healthcare benefits provided to school employees, costing the School Board approximately $131 million.
After Ms. Tynes ended her presentation, board members offered no questions. The general atmosphere in the room was that the report was favorable and showed that the School Board was handling its financials responsibly.
The news that the School Board would be roughly $134 million short if it tried to pay off all its debts today did not deter any of the board members from voting to purchase the Ruston High School baseball field south of town. The School Board unanimously voted to buy the field and surrounding facilities (approximately 5 acres) from the City of Ruston for a grand total of $1,050,000.