Every year, school districts across the state are graded on how they handle their finances with hopes of achieving a high score.
The Texas Education Agency released the preliminary financial accountability ratings on Friday, and Cleburne ISD received a Superior rating along with other districts in Johnson County except Keene ISD, which received a Meets Standard rating.
Created by the 77th Texas Legislature in 2001, the School Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas is designed to encourage public schools to better manage their financial resources to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes.
The 2018-19 ratings are based on annual financial reports provided to TEA by districts and charters from the 2018 fiscal year. The financial accountability system requires TEA to review the audited financial reports from all districts and charters.
The FIRST ratings are based on 15 financial indicators, such as administrative cost expenditures; the accuracy of a district or charter’s financial information submitted to TEA; and any financial vulnerabilities or material weaknesses in internal controls as determined by an external auditor.
Based on the submitted information, a school district or charter is assigned one of four possible letter grades — A, B, C or F — as well as a coinciding financial management ratings — Superior, Above Standard Achievement, Meets Standard or Substandard Achievement.
Cleburne ISD received a Superior rating with a score of 98, which is the same score as last year. CISD Chief Financial Officer Sarah Taylor said they anticipated receiving their score.
“Our long-term liabilities to total assets ratio was 63.98 percent, which is a decrease of 3.49 percent from the prior year,” Taylor said. “The ratio has to be 60 percent or less or the district has to have an increase of 7 percent in enrollment over the past four years in order to receive the full 10 points. As we make principal payments and the amount of our debt decreases, the ratio will decrease.”
Godley ISD received a Superior rating with a score of 100, which is the same score as last year.
“We hope this rating demonstrates our continued efforts to make the most of our taxpayers’ dollars by providing a learner-centered environment to inspire, empower and challenge all students to lead, grow and serve,” GISD Superintendent Rich Dear said.
Grandview ISD received a Superior rating with a score of 100, the same score as last year.
“We are very pleased with Grandview ISD’s FIRST rating of superior,” GVISD Superintendent Joe Perrin said. “It shows that our district is making the most of our taxpayers’ dollars.”
Joshua ISD received a Superior rating with a score of 98, compared to 100 last year.
“Effectively and efficiently managing our resources is a main goal of the district, and the district is proud to once again earn a superior score,” JISD Chief Financial Officer Rebecca Metzger said. “Our current ratio dropped slightly to 2.77, and to earn all 10 points on this indicator a current ratio of 3.0 or higher is required.”
Venus ISD received a Superior rating with a score of 100, which is the same score as last year. VISD Superintendent James Hopper said they’re very proud of their rating and they’re proud of their chief financial officer, Michelle Salazar.
“She does a great job with our finances,” Hopper said. “We make sure that we’re balanced across the board, our expenditures are in the right place and that we keep a good fund balance. We work very hard at maintaining checks and balances in our [administration] building as well.”
Rio Vista ISD received a Superior rating with a score of 92, which is the same score as last year. Superintendent Tony Martin said they are proud of the rating.
"However, as with most quantifiable activities there is always room for improvement," Martin said. "We will examine areas that we need to improve upon and work towards achieving those goals."
Alvarado ISD received a Superior rating with a score of 100, which is the same score as last year. Burleson ISD received a Superior rating with a score of 100, compared to 92 last year.
Keene ISD received a Meets Standard rating with a score of 68, compared to 70 last year.
Any district or charter wishing to appeal its rating must submit a written appeal with supporting evidence to TEA by Sept. 9. After a review of all the submitted appeals, final 2018-19 school FIRST ratings are expected to be released in October.
For more information, visit tea.texas.gov.