DCSD budget team in elite group after winning two prestigious national awards
CASTLE ROCK – The Douglas County School District (DCSD) budget team is among a rare few school districts in the nation that have earned budget awards from both the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) and the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO). What makes it even better is that this is the second consecutive year DCSD’s budget team has won both honors.
Only 1,491, or 11 percent, of the nearly 14,000 school districts nationwide are selected for GFOA’s Distinguished Budget Presentation Award. DCSD is among an even more elite group; one of the 137 selected for ASBO’s Meritorious Budget Award.
“It is really something to be proud of,” said DCSD Director of Budget Scott Smith. “It reflects on the quality of the team that we have and the amount of work they have given.”
Both of these awards, as well as the ASBO award received by the DCSD Accounting team earlier this school year for their Comprehensive Annual Financial Report represent the District’s commitment to transparency and meeting the highest principles when it comes to governmental budgeting and reporting.
It is the twelfth time since 2000 that the District has received the ASBO award and the second time it has been earned under Smith’s Leadership.
In a congratulatory email, an ASBO staff member said that is “a true reflection of the district’s commitment to fiscal integrity.”
The 350-page document details plans and budgets within the organization, providing readers with a comprehensive view of the District’s financial plans.
“It is the master game plan of everything, including every school, every department, everything District-wide,” Smith explained. “It is meant to be not only the detail of the numbers, but also the story behind the numbers as well. What is driving that spend – what are the initiatives that we are funding?”
For that reason, Smith’s team added a new section called Strategic Plan Highlights, which brings focus to budget items that are directly aligned to the District’s Strategic Plan.
“In the section we talk about things that we have done in the past year related directly to the Strategic Plan. For instance, there are some short stories around the National School Lunch Program, around the LEAN initiatives in the Operations and Transportation Departments, changes in our full-day kindergarten tuition policies so that more students have access to a World Class Education,” Smith explained.
Knowing that the budget book isn’t something that every stakeholder will want to read, for the past couple years they’ve also created a Citizen’s Reference Guide to the Budget.
“It is about 20-25 pages and calls out some of the key parts from the budget book,” Smith said. “It tries to make it a little more digestible for a citizen that just wants to get a quick picture of what the District is doing and how the school finance system works in Colorado.”
While the Budget team paused to be recognized at the February 16 Board of Education meeting, they are already hard at work gathering budgets for next school year. In fact, based on feedback from schools, they’ve worked to move up the process this year by a few weeks.
“Principals told us that that their peer districts are hiring in the spring a couple weeks before we are. We want to make sure we are out at the beginning of the hiring cycle to make sure that we are able to interview and hire the best candidates possible,” Smith said.
Working with Human Resources, Planning and Construction, Student Data, and charter schools, the budget team was able to make a change and support our schools.
“We were able to move our timeline up three weeks, so that our schools could have a better idea of what staffing would be like going into the spring, so they could be out and hiring, right in line with all the other districts in the metro area,” Smith said.