Tom Tolen /

The Brighton Area Schools passed its annual audit report this fall with flying colors. At its meeting last week, the Board of Education was presented with a comprehenisve audit report by Jeff Straus from the accounting firm Maner and Costerisan of Lansing.

Again this year, as for the last several years in a row, Brighton was given an “unmodified” opinion, meaning the district applied standard accounting practices and there were no mistakes or “red flags”. What’s more, Straus praised the district for continuing to increase its fund balance. Brighton has gone from an $8.5 million deficit in 2010-11 to a $16.2 million fund balance at the end of the 22-23 fiscal year on June 30th.

Straus also said the district’s long-term liabilities are down $16 million. Straus said part of the reason for the healthy fund balance was the state increasing the per-pupil aid to $9,608 - a $458 increase over last year. Charter schools, on the other hand, continue to receive $9,150 per student in state aid. In addition, he said the district has continued to decrease its outstanding bonded indebtedness.

Also affecting the bottom line is Brighton’s highly successful Shared Services program, in which the district offers non-core curriculum courses and electives, including advanced placement courses. These are offered to private schools that, due to their small size and limited funds, are not able to offer such programs.

Brighton has the largest Shared Services program in the state, and it was a major factor in getting the district out of deficit, because districts that offer such courses are able to realize a portion of the recipient schools’ state aid. Brigton’s fall enrollment on the Brighton campus totalled 5,872 students - a modest, 39-student increase over last year. However, when Shared Services students are added, the district's total enrollment for 2023-24 is 9,553 students.

Superintendent Matthew Outlaw thanked the BAS finance team "for their hard work and dedication with the audit.” Outlaw said, in his words, "The work that goes into an audit takes place year round as our team works to ensure proper systems, checks and balances, and financial practices are utilized by those within our district. They help us to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.” Outlaw thanked district accountant Elizabeth Patterson, who led this audit, and former assistant superintendent for finance Mike Engelter, who left Brighton this past summer to assume a similar position in the Pinckney Community Schools.