Youngstown schools created the report to help promote their bond issue to investors.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A school district receiving an award for financial reporting is about as ho-hum as it gets, unless you're an accountant, auditor or some other calculator-carrying professional.
But when the school district is Youngstown, which for years has been the target of criticism for sloppy bookkeeping, it rises above "ho-hum" to "oh wow!"
State Auditor Jim Petro was to be in Youngstown today to recognize the city schools for getting a certificate of excellence in financial reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada.
Petro and others say the award shows how far the school district has come in cleaning up its financial house.
"For Youngstown schools, it's another step in the right direction toward fiscal accountability," Petro said.
School districts receive the GFOA award for publishing a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, which exceeds standard financial reporting requirements.
Filing the report: Youngstown joins Lakeview and Joseph Badger schools as the only three school districts in the Mahoning Valley to file CAFRs for fiscal year 2000, the auditor's office said. In all, 98 of Ohio's 612 public school districts filed the reports.
But for Youngstown, the first school district in Ohio to be declared a fiscal emergency, the report is particularly sweet.
"It does show that we've come a long way," Treasurer Carolyn Funk said, noting the system was released from fiscal emergency this year.
"It's kind of like putting the whip cream on the top of the sundae."
Petro added: "Districts that don't take financial reporting seriously get themselves in trouble, and I don't have to tell you the quality of financial reporting that Youngstown had been involved in before they became targeted for fiscal emergency.
"One sign of real operational improvement and better decision-making is better financial reporting."
Preparation: It took Funk and her staff nearly five months to put together the half-inch thick, 178-page CAFR, which outlines in minute detail the school system's finances.
Funk said the award is nice, but she said the major reason for doing the report was to help borrow money by selling $33 million in bonds to help finance the upcoming district-wide school renovations project.
"It's what investors look for when they are looking to buy your bonds," she said. "If you don't have it, and you're out on the market looking to borrow money, it may have a negative impact on your ability to do that."
She said the report, which she sent to investors nationwide, lent credibility to the district's regular financial reports.
"People were willing to buy the bonds on the strength of the fact that we have issued a CAFR and had our financial program in place."
She said the district is working on the fiscal year 2001 CAFR.
"We've done a lot and we've accomplished a lot, but we're not done and we have to keep going," she added.