In a step towards virtual consolidation, Evanston’s two school districts are looking for a money-saving deal if they both select the same accounting firm to audit their financial records next year.

Mary Brown, chief financial officer of Evanston/Skokie School District 65, explained how the process would work during a presentation at the board’s monthly Finance Committee meeting Monday night.

Each district would send out their own Request for Proposal  (RFP) to accounting firms, but vendors would be asked to submit a price for the District 65 audit, a price for the Evanston Township High School District 202 audit, and a price for each district if the same firm is chosen to conduct the audits for both districts.

Kathy Zalewski, District 65 comptroller, added that a complicating factor is that District 65’s accounting is done on a cash basis, while District 202’s is on an accrual basis, where revenues and expenses are assumed before the cash actually changes hands.

Most school districts, she added, operate on a cash basis. One result of this is that the district often prepays certain expenses, such as insurance premiums, before the fiscal year ends when they happen to end the year with a cash surplus.  If they were operating under an accrual basis, these expenses would be recorded in the years in which the service is performed, regardless of when actually paid.

Similarly, tax receipts are recorded when they are actually received by the district in a cash system, while they are recorded when they are due under an accrual system.

Consequently, she said, an audit under an accrual system is usually more costly than under a cash system.

The process this year would call for the RFP’s to be sent out separately by both districts in October and November, with final decision being made at a joint meeting of the two boards on Jan. 13, 2014.

If there were only two or three finalists for each district, Zalewski said, joint interviews could be conducted by both boards before making the final selection.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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1 Comment

  1. Shared legal counsel

    They should also consider using the same legal counsel, as each gets conflicting advice from their respective counsel, resulting in diametrically opposed policies in some cases.  Shared counsel might also smooth the way toward sharing more functions between the two districts.

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