Tuesday, September 22, 2015

District Receives Meritorious Budget Award

The Pottstown Mercury posted the following article on 9/17/15:

OJR School District earns Meritorious Budget Award

DOWNINGTOWN >> Three Chester County school districts were among the recipients of the Association of School Business Officials International’s Meritorious Budget Award, the Chester County Intermediate Unit announced.

Each year school districts throughout the United States and Canada are eligible to receive this award. Six Pennsylvania school districts were selected for the 2014-15 school year. Among them are the Owen J. Roberts School District, Downingtown Area School District and Great Valley School District.

“There are approximately 100 recipients across the United States and Canada and three of them are in the room today,” Jeff Ammerman, the director of technical assistance for the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials said during an event last week. “This speaks of the excellence present in Chester County. Congratulations to everyone.”
ASBO’s Meritorious Budget Award is designed to recognize school districts that use best practices in budgeting to improve accuracy, transparency, sound fiscal management and communication to build district stakeholder confidence in each district’s finance office.

The application consists of four sections, which require eight years worth of data. This process breaks down the budgeting process for taxpayers and clearly shows how district resources were spent.
The Meritorious Budget Award process also helps districts align their mission statements, strategic plans and operations together within the budget.

“It is a much more comprehensive process than a normal budget would be,” said Richard Fazio, chief financial officer of Downingtown Area School District. “You look at financial information, statistical data and performance data on the school district as well as academic performance. It is very comprehensive and a good communication tool.”

The districts who received the Meritorious Budget Award agreed that it is worth the effort, especially in the confidence it instills in district financial reporting.
Regina Speaker Palubinksy, superintendent of the Great Valley School District, stressed the importance of using this tool as an external metric.

“It instills confidence,” Palubinksy said. “When others look at it, it shows that the district has aligned everything to the mission and thought about the financial implications of those decisions.”
Jackie Krumrine, chief financial officer for Owen J. Roberts added that it makes the budget transparent.

“It makes the numbers more transparent to the public as a whole,” Krumrine said. “We actually use the budget throughout the district as a communication and management tool because it contains a wealth of information.”

All three of the Chester County districts selected have been long time participants in the program. Great Valley and Owen J. Roberts have both received the award for the past 20 years and Downingtown for the past ten.

West Chester Area School District also received the award for six years, but now participates in the equally demanding Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. Great Valley participates in both the Meritorious Budget Award and CAFR programs.

“This award shows that we go a step beyond,” said Suzanne Moore, director of business affairs for West Chester Area School District. “We follow some pretty strict and disciplined criteria that we use to prepare the budgets and financial statements.”

Large and small districts in Chester County participate in the MBA program. Participation in the MBA provides these Chester County school districts a way to communicate with their community members.

“It’s clearly another measure to demonstrate to taxpayers that you are being good stewards of local, state and federal dollars,” said Michael Christian, superintendent of Owen J. Roberts. “We have one gentleman who comes to our board meeting every year who stands up and says ‘congratulations on your clean budget and open process.’ To have that on the record is invaluable.”

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