Maintaining Careful Financial Stewardship

Maintaining Careful Financial Stewardship
Posted on 04/26/2017

With tax season still in the rearview mirror for most of us, and with our district's budget planning in full force, I wanted to share some information about Leander ISD's financial standing. As a public education system, funded by taxpayer dollars, financial prudence and transparency is something we spend a great deal of time and focus maintaining. Much of that time is spent working to strike an even balance between responsible spending on our students, staff and existing facilities, and planning to ensure capacity for future growth.

In order to achieve these financial goals, LISD employs a team of outstanding professionals who carefully analyze, scrutinize and monitor all of the funds coming into the district, funds being spent, our indebted funds, as well as the funds needed down the road. We have asset and inventory accountants, purchasing negotiators, payroll analysts, budget directors and financial specialists who meticulously oversee these tasks. In fact, they are an award-winning team. Work by our business and finance team has earned top honors from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, the Schools Financial Accountability System and the Association of School Business Officials (ASBO) International.

Their work can also be credited with helping to improve LISD's bond rating by Standard & Poor's (S&P) to an “AA” rating. Just as any other business or individual buying a home or car, school districts are given a credit rating that helps determine its interest rate on bonded funds. We have taken advantage of this favorable rating on three bond refundings, or refinancings, over the past two years, totaling $464 million in interest savings for LISD taxpayers!

According to S&P's report, our rating increase was due to “implementation of a more robust planning framework,” as well as a “willingness and capacity to institute revenue-raising practices,” and “strong financial management practices […] and sustainable policies.” It went on to credit LISD's strong finances and reserves, “despite growth pressure and reductions in state funding,” as well as our conservative budgeting practices and strong fiscal oversight.

The report credited our Board of Trustees and its emphasis on structuring the debt schedule to effectively reduce future interest for taxpayers, while also maintaining the capacity to meet student and community needs. Working with the finance team, we have now balanced our debt portfolio from 78 percent Capital Interest Bonds (CABs) and 22 percent Current Interest Bonds (CIBs), to a 50/50 split. This, again, will save taxpayers millions of dollars in bond interest.

The Board regularly works with district staff to discuss budget issues and priorities. Currently, between January and August while we are building our budget for the 2017-18 school year, at least one board meeting per month will include budget issues, as well as an opportunity for the public to provide feedback.

This spring will also mark the graduation of our Financial Leadership LISD class, which provides an additional opportunity for transparency and engagement with our stakeholders. Class members meet monthly during the school year to explore first-hand how school finance operates, including deep dives into our demographer's 10-year report, human resources, debt servicing and budgeting processes. The class also allows us a direct line of communication with community members to help guide our financial priorities and communication.

Again, as a measure of transparency, all of the information I have discussed — the 2017 Debt Report, which includes the S&P rating report, budget information, Financial Leadership LISD class — and more, can be found through the Financial Transparency tab on the left side of our homepage.

I am grateful to work with such a capable staff and dedicated Board, who work together to ensure our house is in order. With a strong financial footing and capacity to continue growing with the needs of our students, we can be confident that bright days are ahead for Leander ISD.