In our previous article, we discussed the history of voter support of our school district’s tax levies and how it is changing. In this article, we will discuss how the District approaches its budgetary management of taxpayer’s money, and the results of those approaches.
Every Ohio school district has a person who is responsible for the day-to-day management of the district’s financial operations. That person is called the Treasurer. In some cases, the additional designation of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is added to their title, but it’s usually the same individual.
Lakewood’s Treasurer/CFO is Glenna Plaisted. In addition to holding certifications as a school treasurer, school business official, and investment official, Ms. Plaisted is also a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Chartered Global Financial Accountant (CGMA). She began working for Lakewood in 2000. Prior to then, she worked in Public Accounting as an Audit Manager and Tax Manager going back to 1985. Lakewood’s Treasurer is very experienced in financial management.
As a philosophical matter, Ms. Plaisted is very conservative. She makes every attempt to protect the district’s financial condition, while maintaining the funding necessary to provide for the educational needs of the children that attend Lakewood Schools. This conservativeness is reflected in the goal of the budgetary process to always spend less than the estimate of income to come into the District. This effort has produced more than six straight years of spending below what the district received in taxes and other receipts.
In terms of financial reporting, Ms. Plaisted strives for the best accounting and controls standards, and flawless financial record keeping and reporting. She understands the importance of maintaining the trust and confidence of taxpayers in the District, and makes every effort to maintain the highest quality financial standards. As a result, the District has been recognized by the Government Finance Officers Association for “Excellence in Financial Reporting” for fourteen consecutive years.
The overall cost of running a school district is very difficult to control, however, the process to do so requires a disciplined approach to spending, and long range planning. Ms. Plaisted uses both to deliver the targeted results experienced by the district. Over the past six years, the district’s expenses have increased only 1.00% per year on average, well below the rate of inflation. This has resulted in a “Spending per Pupil” (SPP) result of $11,084 in 2016. SPP is a measurement that illustrates how much Lakewood Schools spends annually to educate its students. The district’s spending is below the average of all school districts in the State of Ohio.
When taken together, the experience and training of Ms. Plaisted; six consecutive years of revenues exceeding expenditures; over a decade of consecutive recognition for “Excellence in Financial Reporting”; and staying below the State average for “Spending per Pupil” resulting from spending growth of only 1% per year since 2011; it can be concluded that the Lakewood School District exhibits excellent fiscal management of behalf of taxpayers in the community.