AOS 98 to lose accountant

Board eyes preliminary budget
Wed, 11/01/2023 - 4:45pm

    Alternative Organizational Structure (AOS) 98 Superintendent Robert Kahler announced Oct. 30 the school district will soon need a new accountant. The AOS 98 accounting services firm contacted Kahler last week with a 90-day notice for termination of services due to low staffing, according to Kahler.  

    “Needless to say, it was unexpected, but here we are,” said Kahler.  

    Certified Public Accountant Royer, formerly Berry, Talbot, and Royer, is responsible for backend business work including payroll, accounts payable and state financial reporting, according to Kahler. 

    The AOS 98 School Board charged Kahler, at his request, to solve the gap. Options could include an in-house business office, contracted service, or some combination. However, Kahler said finding a qualified candidate and onboarding them within the 90 days is unlikely. He said the likely best path is to see if another school district can be hired for the work.  

    The development may not be as bad as it seems, according to Georgetown School Board member Kelly James. She said the cost for the Falmouth firm nearly doubled last year, and a new approach may allow the school to hire locally. Other board members said there is a benefit for such relationships to be face-to-face. 

    The loss of the firm will likely increase AOS 98’s spending by $66,000, according to the preliminary 2025 budget handed out at the meeting. The calculations factor in the cost for additional staff and services to fill the gap, including a full-time business manager and assistant.  

    This was the board’s first view of the potential budget for the 2025 fiscal year. Overall, projections show AOS 98 has $2.1 million in estimated expenditures, an almost 24% increase from this fiscal year.

    In addition, Kahler asked the board to consider hiring a full-time assistant superintendent. Kahler said the overarching reason would be to fight burnout and turnover. He said the assistant superintendent’s duties would include curriculum development and grant management, and it could alleviate pressure on administrators who currently wear many hats. Overall, he said adding more administrative staff could support sustainability in the district, allowing principals and other staff more time to focus on their schools.  

    The board did not reject or approve the idea, but was receptive. 

    “If you are fully covered administratively, that's going to support your principals, your teachers down through, and you will see that effect all the way down through the kids,” said AOS 98 chair and Georgetown School Board member Kelly James. “When we go anywhere in the world, any day, you notice that everybody's short-staffed. You have one person doing more and more and more. I think it's reasonable for him to ask.” 

    Southport School Board Member Adam Harkins has been involved with local school boards for over a decade and said turnover has been an issue. He said administrators do more as time goes on, and the superintendent’s office could help by taking over more work.  

    “We're rolling out some incredible administrators, but we're rolling them out to somewhere else because they see just how beautiful it is somewhere else where they have to do half the work,” he said. 

    According to the preliminary budget, the assistant superintendent would have a $90,000 salary, which represents about 22% of the budget increase for the year. However, the upcoming CSD school project vote, inflation and financial uncertainty across many households were not lost on the board. 

    “I will never sit here and make a decision and not think of the person that is struggling to pay their bills,” James said. “The last thing anybody on a school board wants to do is to increase this budget so much that we force people out of town. That's not the point. It would affect a kid at their home. If you can't pay your taxes, you can't buy your groceries, then think about it. That's not good either.” 

    This article has been updated from its original posting.