Dixon learning center goes out with a clean slate

COLUMBIANA – For the last year of its operation the Joshua Dixon Early Learning Center has earned a clean audit, and the city school district was also given the Auditor of State (AOS) Award.

Auditor of State David Yost made the announcement last week, and it is not the first time the district has earned the award.

Treasurer Lori Posey said the district has received clean audits for at least the last 18 years and could not recall an instance prior to that in which any problems occurred.

In order to receive the award a district must follow the generally accepted accounting principles and file timely financial reports with the AOS office. Audit reports must not contain any findings for recovery, material citations, weaknesses, significant deficiencies, or questioned costs.

Superintendent Donald Mook turned all credit toward Posey for the awards.

“It’s a tribute to Lori Posey. She’s really good at her job. She’s diligent and helps maintain the status (of the district). We don’t run things improperly,” he said.

Posey has been with the district since 1994. She said the learning center, which started operations in 2008, closed this past June as a result of fewer grants being received.

The center was a community conversion school located inside Joshua Dixon Elementary. While housed in the school, it was still recognized as its own entity. The center was designed for the purpose of meeting the learning needs of kindergarten students, including those with disabilities or designated as gifted and talented.

In 2012, 73 kindergarten students were enrolled at the learning center.

“We basically decided to close because grant money was pretty much dried up. We’re just hoping to continue to utilize technology at all levels through the Columbiana schools,” Posey said.

She explained that because the center could receive it’s own grant funding the district attempted to use that funding to infuse technology into the early learning years.

The center saw a drop of more than $62,300 in total net assets in 2012 as a result of the reduction in federal grant funding, according to the audit report.

In addition to grants, the center relied heavily on the State School Foundation Program to support operations, and funding received through the program is directly related to how many students are attending.

The audit report stated the center was closed solely because of the decline in grant funding. It had no outstanding debt when it closed on June 30.

The only recommendations made in the audit for the center was that the three-member board hold meetings on a monthly basis as stipulated in the by-laws, and that the treasurer keep a full record of the meetings.

The board met only three times last year and while agendas from the meetings were still available, detailed minutes were not available.

There were no recommendations or findings listed in the city school district audit.

The audit indicated the district’s overall financial condition has improved based on an increase in net assets. As of June 30, the district had increased its net assets by more than $975,700 over 2011.

The audit stated, however, that the district’s growth in tax revenue will be “minimal” for the “next several years” as a result of the current economic conditions. The district is at the 20-mill floor and benefits from several housing developments, including the Links at Firestone, Old Saybrook and Terra Verde.

More construction projects in the city would also benefit the school district financially with regards to tax revenue, according to the audit.