Perfect score for SMSD’s Financial Integrity Report
By Karen Daniels
Each year school districts must disclose their financial information to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) so that the State may determine that schools are spending responsibly and being “held accountable for their financial resources.” Public schools and open-enrollment charters (1,026 total) must participate.
This year, Stafford MSD received a perfect score of 70 for the State’s rating system. Each question on the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) is worth 5 points, and a passing score is 52. There are four categories assigned to districts after their final score is established: Superior; Above Standard, Standard, and Substandard. 88% of the school districts and charter schools are in the Superior category.
Carla Merka, CFO of SMSD, went through the 20 detailed questions at the October school board meeting. She has been with the district for two years, but “this was the first year of the financials” that she conducted. “It’s on the part of my business office that we received this perfect score.” Last year the District received a 69. The question that caused the one-point deduction pertained to related debt. In 2011, when the total score achievable was 80, SMSD received a score of 75. They missed all points on investments. In 2010, SMSD received a 73 out of 80, missing points on related debt and investments.
Trustee Cindy Hoelscher found the perfect score “impressive” and said “being financially sound is just as important because if you don’t have financial strength you can’t keep educating kids.” FIRST is designed to “disclose the quality of local management and decision-making processes that impact the allocation of financial resources in Texas public schools.” Dr. Hindt advised the board that financial responsibility will be part of the new Starr accountability system that was established in the 83rd Legislature.
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