Ennis School Board to buy parking lot, board discusses audit costs

The Ennis School Board approved the purchase of a piece of property adjacent to the school at their regular monthly meeting last Wednesday.

The property is owned by the Schaufler family and has been on the school district’s agenda since the owners announced it was for sale earlier this year.

Currently, the property, which is across the street from the elementary school and behind Pit Stop Pizza and Grill, is being used as a parking lot.

The board approved purchasing the property for the asking price of $150,000 on a 3-2 vote after a bit of discussion.

Superintendent John Overstreet encouraged the board to move on the property and take the money out of the building reserve fund for the purchase.

“I still would rather have the board approve it at this time rather than risk losing it,” Overstreet said.

However, board chair Lisa Frye said she would like to wait until the ongoing audit of the school district’s finances is complete.

The audit could recommend the district shift money between funds, Frye said. So making a decision to use money out of the building reserve fund was premature. However, she did agree that the school district needed the property.

“That’s the only reason I would like to wait,” she said.

Board member Craig George agreed with Frye and asked if the offer could be made contingent on the audit findings.

One of the plans for the property would be to use it to clear up traffic problems near that end of the school.

Board members Jim McNally, Mike McKitrick and Bill Clark all felt buying the property now was prudent rather than running the risk of it selling to another buyer.

“If we didn’t decide tonight, (Schaufler) would put it up for sale,” Overstreet said. “It’s my doubt it would sell in a month or two, but you just don’t know.”

In other business, the board discussed funding for the ongoing audit.

Frye told the board she had had conversations with a representative from Denney, Downing and Associates, the firm conducting the audit of the school district’s finances. The firm is approaching the $60,000 limit set by the school district and Madison County Commissioners, Frye said.

They auditors were initially going audit the books back to 2003, but they’ve only got to 2005, but feel like going further may be unnecessary, she said.

McKitrick seemed a bit confused by the auditors doing $60,000 worth of work, when their original bid for the job was $17,000 to $25,000.

“It kind of feels like to me we’ve given them an open check,” he said.

The auditors are going to find things the district already knows about and has discussed, McNally said. Unfortunately, they aren’t keeping within the bid they presented for the work, but regardless it’s not appropriate to spend more money.

“We’ve thrown $60,000 away so let’s stop the bleeding,” he said.

George disagreed with McNally. The $60,000 cap was a board decision and it’s important now to see where the auditors are at before authorizing any more money, he said.

“It’s kind of hard to be critical of where we’re at until we see that report,” George said.

Overstreet felt the money was well spent if the audit will help with community trust of the school district.

“From my standpoint I think it was good to spend the extra money to get the trust back of the community,” he said.

The board finally decided to request a draft of the final audit report going back through 2005 before taking on the question of spending more money. McNally also requested that any communication with the auditors be shared with the board.

“I would request that if there’s certain communication like that, it would be forwarded to all of the trustees,” he said.

In other news, high school principal John Sullivan shared the results of CRT testing at the school. The CRT is a proficiency test given each year to 10th graders, Sullivan explained. It’s meant to give the school a snap shot of how their education programs are performing.

Ennis School has proficiency levels above the state average in reading, math and science. In reading, Ennis was 97 percent proficient. The only two schools in the district with better scores were West Yellowstone and Shields Valley, which had 100 percent proficiency scores. Ennis had a 70.59 percent proficiency score in math and 52.94 percent proficiency in science. Both scores are well above the state average.


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