School financial statements: We need to know, you need to know, the public needs to know what schools probably don’t want known

The legislature, in its infinite wisdom, thinks putting public agency financial information on the Internet is the end-all answer to public notice advertising. What they don’t realize is how easy it is to hide the information on a website and make it impossible to find.

I might tell you certain information is on the KPA website — www.kypress.com — but if I don’t give you more specific instructions, I can make sure you never will see what you’re trying to find. That’s the way a lot of superintendents are treating this ability to publish information on the website.

The legislature, in its same holier than thou way, thinks just giving the public a website address is going to make sure every Kentuckian has ready-made access to what has been published in the newspapers over the years.

We’re keeping track this year and need your help. You should have had a public notice to publish in the last few days at the financial information for XYZ schools is available online and it must include a website address for that school district.

Push the superintendent to publish the exact website address where one can go directly and find the information required. Don’t allow them to settle for just the school’s main website because it’s difficult if not impossible to find where it’s posted. Every link on every website will have its own address so make the school system publish it. Better yet, get that website address, you put it in the ad yourself and then write a story about where the public can find the information.

If you’ve published the ad already, and you should have because the deadline date is past, then please get that address to me. We want to keep track of each school district, see if they are publishing what is required as it’s required and then we will be sharing all the information with those legislators.

One publisher reports that five of the nine school districts where he has newspapers are “out of compliance” with the law.

The same thing is going to happen in counties of 90,000 or more population. Hey that’s you if you’re in Boone, Campbell, Daviess, Fayette, Hardin, Kenton, Jefferson or Warren counties. And the language includes every city/town within those eight counties. So while it’s not quite time for them to publish their financial information, those cities and counties — again ONLY in counties of 90,000 or more — do have to publish any and all ordinances passed by the court, council or commission — after publishing a notice in the newspaper. Keep track of those and make sure you share the information with us. Those same cities also have to publish their financial information on the city’s website if it has one. If it does not, the only choice is to publish the full financial statement in the newspaper.

The new law for school districts, passed in House Bill 366 during the 2018 session, reads:

Section 6. KRS 160.463 is amended to read as follows:

(1) The school board of each public school system shall direct its superintendent to publish the complete annual financial statement and the school report card annually:

(a) In the newspaper of the largest general circulation in the county;

(b) Electronically on a Web site of the school district; or

(c) By printed copy at a prearranged site at the main branch of the public library within the school district.

(2) If publication on a Web site of the school district or by printed copy at the public library is chosen, the superintendent shall be directed to publish notification in the newspaper of the largest circulation in the county as to the location where the document can be viewed by the public.

(3) The notification shall include the address of the library or the electronic address of the Web site where the documents can be viewed

 

Notice that the last line does not say just a general school district website. It says the electronic address of the Web site “where the documents can be viewed.”

So schools should supply that direct link to the financial statements and then for the district report card when it’s time for those to be shared with the public.

 

 

 

2 responses to “School financial statements: We need to know, you need to know, the public needs to know what schools probably don’t want known”

  1. Christopher Tobe says:

    Most important numbers are the GASB funding ratios, associated with TRS and CERS for each District.

    • Thanks and that’s another reason these should be published in the local newspaper instead of online because there are some thing school districts may not want the public to know and can conveniently leave those needs off the website.

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