"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Monday, February 7, 2011


I am asking for your help in deciding how to handle claims. 

Every month, all the expenditures of the previous month are approved by the board.  The full report is listed on the district website, and can be reviewed by the public. (See the section marked 'claims', expand, and download.)  This information is usually posted three or four days in advance of the board meeting (2nd Tuesday of each month). 

All expenses over a certain dollar amount must be approved by a supervisor.  All expenses over $5000 must be approved by the superintendent or the cabinet (those who directly report to the superintendent).  All expenses over $10,000 are approved by the board.  In addition, the board creates the annual budget, and, as such, determines how much money goes into each fund.  If you think of funds as envelopes for budgeting, you'll get the idea.  There's a general fund, a capital fund, etc.   The capital fund has to be used on things with a useful life (accounting term) of more than one year.  Most often, capital items are buildings, furniture, computers, buses, etc.  The general fund pays for salaries and day-to-day operating expenses.  Also, each school has a budget, and they can spend up to a given amount without going through approval at the district level.  Also note, anything listed as account '8100' or 'Pay 8100' is an amount the district paid for on behalf of a given school, and the school is receiving the money for it.  For example, some schools have cell towers on their property that allow them to collect money from the cell providers (or whomever).  The renters pay ASD, and ASD pays that portion back to the school. 

Here's my issue.  As a board member, I am approving all the expenditures for the previous month.  However, there are so many, it is virtually impossible to see and understand all of them in such a short period of time.  If I am accountable for those expenditures, then I feel an obligation to approve each of them.  If not, then should I be voting on them?  It has been suggested that I look over the list and see what things stick out.  What would you do?  I would appreciate your help in both reviewing the claims, and recommending how you would like to see this oversight exercised.


  1. Here is a direct link to the January claims:

    Just copy and paste it into your browser.

    What does pay 8100 refer to in the comments column? Also, what happens if an expense is not approved?

  2. As an accountant, back in the days when I did auditing, we would examine a statistically significant sample of transactions, go through those with a fine tooth comb, do other various control testing, and eventually sign off that the financial statements were materially correct. There is no realistic way for you to do that on a monthly basis (though I know your task is a little different)

    One thing you can do with a public entity is to post all expenditures online with a description of what is being paid for at the schools and encourage parents to look at what's being spent and alert you to anything that draws their attention.

    Even better, you could split the district into multiple districts where a high school is a district for the schools that feed into it. Then give the budgets to individual schools and let the school community councils perform that review function right at the school itself. That would be ideal in my view. You could still post expenditures online for parents at that school to review.

  3. As I was looking at the list, there needs to be a way for you sort the information into categories, By School, By Comment, By Amount, By Vendor etc. and have sub totals for them. Then you could actually see if fuel for Feb was higher than Jan, and ask why? Or if one vendor is receiving lots of little checks that add to big expenses. You also need trends from previous months and previous years. Then I think you could reasonably quickly and responsibly approve the expenses.

  4. Great suggestions, so far. Keep them coming. BTW, each school has its own individual budget. How the SCC's interact with that I assume is based on individual school.