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PIONEER SCHOOLS PASS AUDIT WITH TOP MARKS

The Pioneer School District is still losing money from its lunch program but is otherwise in solid fiscal shape, independent auditors told the School Board this week.

Sara Dayton of Lumsden & McCormick in Buffalo, the district's external auditor, presented the annual audit and said the district had earned "the best rating" her firm can give for an audit.

"Our finances are in excellent shape," said Superintendent Jeffrey Bowen. "It was a very clean audit."

He said one area of concern is that losses for the 5th- to 12th-grade lunch program increased to $70,000 for the 2003-04 school year, from $46,000 the previous year.

School officials said auditors recommended possibly raising base lunch prices. The district has already raised money for a la carte items. The district has also installed a new computerized system meant to track lunch program expenses in an effort to reduce costs.

Bowen said a review of meal prices was suggested since they have stayed the same since August 2000, despite noticeable rise in other costs, such as health insurance, retirement system contributions, supplies, equipment and transportation.

Dayton also highlighted the district's contribution to pension plans for teachers and support staff. Officials said contributions to the teachers' plan have risen from $83,298 in 2003-04 to $206,978 this year and are projected at $476,775 next year.

For support staff, the cost has risen from $77,554 in 2003-04 to $575,108 this year, with $1,141,000 projected for next year.

A workshop for the School Board on the audit is planned. A Lumsden and McCormick workshop for faculty advisers and student treasurers on the maintenance of extracurricular activity funds also will be set.

Other recommendations included: new prohibitions on credit card use by district officials, certification of payroll by the superintendent and expanded controls over the collection and deposits of revenues from vending machines. .

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