Downstate firm wins bid to audit district’s financial services

ESCANABA – The Escanaba School Board awarded a bid for financial audit services to a downstate firm at Monday’s school board meeting.

Traverse City-based auditing firm Rehmann Robson was awarded a three-year contract totaling $44,000 for its services beginning with the fiscal year end of 2013.

The district also received three-year price quotes from four other firms: Gabridge & Company of Grand Rapids at $35,760; Abraham & Gaffney, PC of East Lansing at $59,400; Anderson, Tackman and Company PLC of Escanaba at $59,500; and Schneider, Larche, Haapala & Company PLLC of Escanaba at $76,900.

During discussion, school board president Jim Hermans, who also serves as a member on the Bay College Board of Trustees, said he preferred awarding the contract to a local firm instead of Rehmann Robson. He recommended Anderson, Tackman and Co. based on his experience with their service to Bay College for four years.

“I just feel that we should be awarding these to local people in the district, especially to the next lowest one which would be Anderson, Tackman. They do pay taxes in the city here. Their children do go to school here and they support us,” he said.

Trustee Natalie Clouse said she respected Hermans’ opinion but the three-year $15,000 cost difference between the two firms played a factor in her decision.

“We are actually suffering financially as a district, so we have to be careful with how we spend our money over three years,” she said. “We don’t know what three years is going to bring.”

Board secretary Cathy Wilson said she believed local community members and local firms would want the school district to be as fiscally responsible as possible but asked Superintendent Michele Lemire what led to her recommendation of Rehmann Robson over the others.

“First of all, when we asked for proposals, we had each of the firms answer the same set of questions,” said Lemire. “They all had an equal opportunity to give us their best proposal.”

The district looked at how many school district audits each firm performs during a school year, what kind of on-going training is provided in the area of school district audits, and the qualifications and number of staff members available to the district.

Lemire learned Rehmann Robson was recently awarded audit contracts with other Upper Peninsula educational institutions such as Bay College, Northern Michigan University, and Michigan Tech.

The Rehmann Robson staff member assigned to Escanaba Area Public Schools will be from Sault Ste. Marie. Lemire said Rehmann Robson is trying to establish a larger presence in the U.P. since they are being awarded more contracts there.

“Overall, my recommendation is basically finding the firm that, based on what I read, appears to have the best qualifications – the most experience for the price,” she said.

The board approved awarding the bid to Rehmann Robson by a vote of 4 to 1 with board treasurer Jed Gagnier and trustees Clouse, Will Carne, and Marilyn Noble voting in favor and Hermans voting in opposition. Wilson and board vice-president Nicole Dewar-Braun abstained from voting.

The board also unanimously approved a second amendment to the 2012-13 budget, which calls for revenues of $21,108,034 and expenditures totaling $22,138,978. This accounts for an approximate $204,000 reduction in revenues mostly due to changes to special education reimbursement dollars based on reduction of costs, and a $6,400 increase in expenditures. The amendment shows the district is expected to spend $1,030,944 of its fund balance, leaving a projected fund balance of $252,264 on June 30, 2013.

In other business the board:

approved the purchase of a 2013 Chevrolet plow truck in the amount of $30,014.95 from Riverside Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac. The truck will replace a 1992 Chevrolet truck, which is in poor condition. The plow, salt and sand spreader will be taken off the old truck and reused on the new one.

approved hiring of Jim Hughes to fill the custodial 1 position at Lemmer Elementary School.

approved a leave of absence request by a Teamster member at the Escanaba Senior High School due to an injury, for approximately six to eight weeks.

approved a request from Teamsters Local Union 406 to allow its members to donate accumulated sick leave days to create a sick bank for another member. The sick bank would allow the employee in need to maintain insurance coverage.