Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Sleight of Hand

The following note on the district web site is supposed to equate with good financial practices. Yet ... the word used is reporting not practice.

The district -- actually its taxpayers -- pay a consultant to assemble the CAFR. The award is only on presentation, not financial practice or fiscal accountability.

Another example of your tax dollars at work; paying for the presentation of a report so the district can claim an award.

Office of the Treasurer Again Earns Recognition for Excellence in Financial Reporting
August 29, 2007- For the sixth consecutive year Olentangy Local Schools was awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) for its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). The GFOA Certificate of Excellence is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by the district and its fiscal management practices.

"We are extraordinarily proud of having earned this third-party, professional recognition for excellence in reporting," said Becky Jenkins, Treasurer of Olentangy Schools. "It is a credit to our staff that work so hard in this area and is something about which our community can be proud."

The district first received this honor in 1997, and has graciously accepted the award on nine occasions. This award represents the fiscal year ending June 30, 2006.

The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) provides a range of information on the district's financial position and is used for a variety of constituencies including area residents, federal and state governmental agencies and debt companies. The CAFR is the district's audited annual financial report prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.

The CAFR is comprised of three major sections: introductory, financial, and statistical. The introductory section provides general information on the district's structure, services and environment. The financial section contains the auditors' opinion, balance sheets, statements of revenues, expenditures and changes in fund balance, and budget basis statements. The statistical section provides trend data and non-financial data for additional analysis of the district.

The CAFR was judged by an impartial panel according to such standards as whether the report demonstrates a constructive spirit of full disclosure and whether it motivates potential users and user groups to read the CAFR. The GFOA is a nonprofit professional association serving approximately 15,000 government finance professionals.


Anonymous said...

You're KIDDING me, right???


The next time I put together an Excel or PowerPoint presentation for my boss (who can't use a PC to save his life) so he looks good to his bosses I'm going to demand an award.

Gee: "We misspend your money, but at least the reports look good!"

Does the nonsense ever end?

Anonymous said...

You are being very disingenuous now. The award is for presenting material with "full disclosure" and completeness. This is something you claim the district doesn't do but again, you have no basis to back up your claim. Here an independent panel judged that the district does do a good job of completely and openly disclose its financial statement.

This award is more than just formatting but includes the type and amount of material presented and disclosed and it flies in the face of everything you claimed during the levy campaign.

Jim Fedako said...

I never know what to say. I try to be nice ... but ...

This award does NOT a address financial practices, programming, or even fiscal accountability.

It only addresses the presentation of data.

We PAY a consultant to produce the report. It is NOT a product of the treasurer's department, nor is it an opinion on the district's finances.

Some folks will believe anything. PT Barnum anyone.

Anonymous said...

There was no claim to it being a representation of accountability. It does, as it clearly states, give credit of openness.

You've criticized the district of "hiding" information. This independent organization seems to disagree with you.

Jim Fedako said...

Look, read my stuff. I regularly refer to the CAFR for my defense.

The district is hiding millions of investment income from its residents. How do I know? It's in the CAFR.

But the CAFR is a required, audited document.

The award is for presentation only. The district implies that the award equates with financial practices and reflects positively on the functions of the treasurer.

Absolutely not true.

I bet that you have never read the CAFR. And, I bet you have never read CAFRs that did not receive this award (of course, that never stops folks from opining on that which they know nothing about).

The data is available in documents that win, as well as those that do not.

GASB mandates what is presented (as far as the meat), the district is NOT doing its residents a favor by presenting data thata it MUST present.

This is the same as saying a Blue Ribbon School award shows that the high school is an exemplary school. When, in fact, the award simply means that the high school filled out the application correctly.

That's why 50% of the applicants get a site visit, and 98% of those getting a site visit get the blue ribbon. Not much of an accomplishment, unless you consider the tax dollars that went into filling out the application.

The same holds for the CAFR, not everyone submits for the award.

Then, of course, not every district employs a consultant to produce the document.

Do some research, read a CAFR or two before once again bloviating on this blog.

Anonymous said...

That's like Newsweek's "Top 1,000 High Schools" award: let's judge schools on the basis of how many AP tests were administered to (foisted upon) the kids instead of how well they they did on them. Brilliant!

Anonymous said...

How can they be hiding millions in investment when it is reported in a public document? You yourself used this public document to pull out the data. Yes, I have also read the CAFR and the five year plan. I found them very informative and used the data contained in them to see the fallacy of your criticism.

Jim Fedako said...

Please ...

If you read the CAFR, why were you also not saying that there are millions in investment income?

If you read the CAFR, why were you claiming that the "award" had value?

Why does the district not mention its investment income on the plannig document (Five-Year Forecast) it shares with its residents?

Why is it that I knew it was there and brought that to life while you supposedly knew it was there YET told no other resident? Hmmm.

Hide: To keep secret.

According to your logic, Spitzer was not hiding his activities from his wife as everything he did was recorded somewhere.

The district claims it is an open book, yet share only a Spitzerian amount of info. I served on the board, I know how the game is played.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you played games while on the board. It seems you like playing games.

First, you've made several charges about me but again, you have no facts to back them up. It is an amazing trend in your posts.

I've never said that there are not millions in investment income.

Because I've read the CAFR, I know the award has value. I've seen the level of openness and amount of financial information available to the public.

How do you know I haven't told other residents? You don't.

Interesting approach to bring Spitzer in to a discussion of the Olentangy Schools. Of course it has no relevance but it fits your anti-government, anti-schools rhetoric.

The fact that you and anyone else who wants it can find the information you post proves your original assertion wrong. The schools are open and transparent.

Taxpayer of 3 kids said...

Oh 7:09 anonymous what flavor is the koolaide you drink?

Yes their books are transparent...but oh the deals behind the scenes. The money for balancing the budget is there, only they want to use for other pet projects. They want to protect themselves on poor planning for the 4 new buildings you just approved, or is it money they committed to site work without approval to build the schools?

It is more than the CAFR. They aren't transparent in all their operations. Hiding behind "it is best for the children".

Once you are affected by their slight of hand, you might understand why people post what they do.

Jim Fedako said...


It is the role of a good board member to discover the games, and stop them.

Folks like you believe that the role of the board is to cheerlead calls for more revenue. That's valid. Foolish, but valid.

Oh, and I never contend that the data on the CAFR is not valid -- I use it often to make a point. I simply note that the board, superintendent, et al., don't want the public reading it.

It's funny, the CAFR is addressed to the board and residents, yet the board NEVER reviews it at a meeting. Hmmm.

I still contend that you have not read the CAFR, nor have you read another district's CAFR that did not receive the award.

Of course, you can play a little game by skimming the document to make your point, but I doubt you truly understand it.

"Because I read the CAFR, I know the award has value" is either a lie or incredibly inane.

Or, you are someone who has their own CAFR to worry about.

In all instances, you lose.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the board doesn't want you reading the CAFR which is why they put it on the website for anyone to download.

No, you never said the data was wrong. What you said is the board tries to hide the data but the publicly accessible CAFR, which you use, proves you wrong.

The only case you are correct is I have not read another district's CAFR which didn't win the award.

I'm not sure how being in a wonderful district which continues to provide academic excellence with fiscal restraint and good management is a loss.

However, I can understand how you see it that way because it impedes your desire to end publicly funded education.

Jim Fedako said...

Today, while doing my post tax cleanup, I came across a ThisWeek article where Davis is quoted as saying the the district has received awards for "fiscal stewardship." (page A4, Jan 24, 2008).

You obviously bought that lie.

I have come to realize that folks like you really want to believe that their neighbors -- acting as board members, administrators, bureaucrats, etc. -- always have your best interests in mind. These folks are truly the altruistic do-gooders of the utopian's dream.

I suggest you get a little closer to the district, or your township, the county, or whatever level of government you find of interest, and see how folks in power really act.

I will be eye opening.

Anonymous said...

Again, you assume I'm not close or haven't been close. Making assumptions has really proven how out of touch you really are.

I do stay in touch with various groups and I don't take what they say (just like your stuff) at face value. I follow up with research on original material.

In your case, I've gone through the CAFR and 5 year plan to verify your claims. I've gone back to the ORC and searched court cases in the State of Ohio to verify your claims. I've also done the same for OFC and the board.

Based on research, I've come to the conclusion that your claims are weak at best and flat out wrong or misleading in most cases.

Jim Fedako said...

"In your case, I've gone through the CAFR and 5 year plan to verify your claims."

OK ... so, does the district have investment income? Would that money have offset the FY09 shortfall many times over? Does the fact that the district earns investment income prove that it is holding onto residual bond funds (i.e., bond funds that are not needed for construction purposes)?

My claim are correct.

One question of logic ... When I said the same stuff while serving on the board, was I correct? I suspect that, in your view, elected officials are altruistic. So, I was altruistic then, yet evil now. How did I change?

Are the board table and microphone givers of omnicience and altruism? And, once out of the presence and influence of the table and mic, I returned to my true nature?