Getting newspapers ready for publishing school financial statements

Editor’s Note: The following was sent by email to all publishers and ad managers on Thursday, bringing their attention to some ideas and suggestions on publishing school financial statements. Kentucky newspapers regained that publication after Gov. Matt Bevin vetoed language in the 2016-17 state budget that would have again allowed school districts to post the statements on their website instead of publishing those in the qualified newspaper.

School is out in most places, or about to be, and this is a good time to talk with you about publication of the school financial statements.

It is NOT time yet, the law calls for that to be within 60 days after the close of the fiscal year. And the fiscal year ends June 30.

In 2016, many of you had your first experience at publishing these because schools had not been required to since 2001. In that time, schools were given language in the state budget that allowed them to place the financial statements on the district’s website. That provision was included in the 2016-17 state budget but it was language that Governor Bevin veteod. That meant publication of the school financial statements returned to newspapers. And it’s still in effect.

By the same token, many school officials involved in the financial statement area were not around the last time the process was required.

So from experience and from looking at many of the financial statements that were published late last August/early September some thoughts and suggestions:

• go ahead now and contact the school finance officer who will be in charge of getting the information to you. Include the superintendent in that discussion. 

• show them with the attached pdf of KRS 424.220 that “within 60 days” after the close of the fiscal year, the financial statement is to be published. That puts it about August 29. For weeklies and multi-weeklies, look ahead to the calendar and let them know the closest date to August 29 that you will be publishing. And let them know that you need the financial statement ahead of that publication date.

KRS 424.220 – FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

• request that the school district supply you with the financial statement in a .doc, .docx or text format. Many districts last year supplied the statement in pdf format. There’s little you can do with a pdf to delete extra white space or even ensure it appears no larger than 7 (seven) point type as required in KRS 424. Explain that by deleting white space and ensuring no larger than 7 point type, you can save them space and that translates into less cost to the district. That’s most easily done by having a .doc, .docx or .txt format.

• show them the part of the law about the list of vendors. The district can combine all payments over the fiscal year to a single vendor and list that vendor and the total amount paid. However, only vendors receiving $1,000 or more are to be listed. This past year, we saw districts listing amounts as low as $13.49. And many included vendor payments that totaled $100 to $900. Those amounts are not necessary. It’s only aggregate payments that exceed $1,000 and then a single listing of that vendor’s name. In many cases your newspaper will NOT be listed on the vendor list because the amount paid to your newspaper, including the financial statement publication, does not exceed $1,000. When you receive the list of vendors scan through it to make sure amounts of less than $1,000 are not included. If there are, delete them so they will not be published.

• show them that the law — KRS 424.220 (4) — requires the school district give you a list factual list of the amounts of salaries paid to teachers. That is NOT required to be published on the financial statement except by lump sum for Instructional Salaries or something similar to that. You can only publish that list as a news story if you desire. Many newspapers do not publish the list however.

KPA has fought hard the last 10 to 12 years to preserve public notices in newspapers. You and your newspaper can help us in that by doing what’s right by following the law and by working with your local officials. Remember, KRS 424.220 pertains not only to school districts but to your county government and all incorporated towns within your county. 

NO larger than 7 point type.

NO extra white space.

If you have questions, please give me a call at 800-264-5721.

Thanx.

David T.

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