Authored by Marvin Founds, Managing Director, Baker Tilly; and Jeremy Buskirk, Senior Manager, Baker Tilly
Heading into the calendar year-end and the start of a new year, treasurer/CFOs have plenty to think about as the five-year forecasts are being completed and budget season is around the corner. We developed a checklist of five topics, plus a bonus item, that should be considered at this point in the fiscal year with tips and practices to help you whether you are new to the job or a seasoned professional.
- Five-year forecast: You have gathered all the information for your five-year forecast to update revenue and expenditure assumptions, including updated assessed valuations from the county auditor, but have you considered sharing it with other parties, such as a business advisory committee or finance committee? Tapping into the members’ collective knowledge could give you valuable feedback to improve your report and provide insight to the community’s perspectives. Once it’s approved and filed with ODE, the forecast doesn’t have to sit on the shelf. There are opportunities to share both the positive and negative aspects with the public. Committee members or other supportive external parties can act as advocates for you in conveying your district’s financial picture to the community at large.
- Bond retirement fund millage: Bond retirement fund millage should be evaluated annually. You can employ the up-to-date assessed valuations that were used for the five-year forecast to update millage models as well as evaluate the current debt structure. Working with the county auditor is important to ensure the bond retirement millage being set meets district goals and complies with what the county auditor allows, including targeted fund balances. While working through this process, you can also start planning for future bond issues to address capital project needs.
- Post-audit review: Whether you had a clean audit or one with findings, consider perspectives gained from the process and use them to improve your organization. Once audit results are available, review them for any internal control issues and other factors that may require procedural changes within the organization. Organizational reviews or internal control studies can help find efficiencies and other opportunities for improvement. Have you considered bringing in a consultant with auditing experience who can help you prepare for next year’s audit? This may do two things: make your following year’s audit go smoother and faster, which can lower your school district’s audit costs, and take an onerous and time-intensive task off your plate.
- Budget prep work: As you gear up for next year’s budget process, two common approaches used are needs-based (i.e., buildings and departments present to a group who evaluate what is needed) or allocation-based (i.e., certain amounts are allocated to buildings and departments). Determining the approach will help you identify and start communicating with the parties involved so they understand what information will be required of them and when. This is an opportunity for the administrative team to look at how the budget aligns with the district’s goals and to think strategically about desired outcomes. It can help everyone become aware of resources needed to support operational costs, like utilities and maintenance, as well as student-focused educational expenditures.
- Certificate of transition: Fiscal officers are required to have an updated and readily available certificate of transition. To help provide a smooth and orderly transition, the document contains information an incoming treasurer needs (e.g., bank accounts, debt schedules and grants, union agreements, etc.), so they can execute their primary duties without interruption. If you don’t have a certificate in place, you should prepare one and update it periodically or seek assistance to complete it. The beginning of the calendar year and the new fiscal year can be scheduled times to revisit the document for any updates and make certain such things as contact information is accurate and new vendor relationships are reflected.
One last tip: If you haven’t already paid workers’ compensation in full, you should consider reviewing the potential for your school district to benefit from a 2 percent discount on its premium if it is paid by Jan. 3, 2023. If you pay with a credit card, you may reap the additional benefits of the card’s rewards program. It also takes that monthly or quarterly payment off your list of things to do.
Marvin Founds, Managing Director at Baker Tilly Municipal Advisors, LLC, firstname.lastname@example.org | 614.987.1689
Jeremy Buskirk Senior Manager at Baker Tilly Municipal Advisors, LLC, email@example.com | 614.987.1684