by Mary Everson
In 1950, 39 separate school districts were consolidated to form Jefferson County R-1 School District. Jeffco Public Schools, as it’s better known, educates approximately 85,000 students, employs over 12,000 full and part- time staff, and covers 779 square miles in Jefferson County. Much has changed since 1950, but the primary mission remains to provide high-quality educational services that prepare Jeffco students to be college and career ready.
Running Jeffco schools requires competent staff, dedicated teachers, involved community members, active parents, and Board of Education Members who are accountable to Jefferson County parents and taxpayers. To provide additional insight and accountability, Jeffco has established several Board- appointed citizen committees.
In December 1999, the Board of Education established the Financial Oversight Committee (FOC), a separate and independent citizen group to oversee its budget and financial practices. the move was made partially in response to some financial improprieties and problems. Citizens with financial expertise were selected to help ensure the district’s integrity and fiscal responsibility. Board Policy lays out the FOC’s governance process, and District Policy DIEE discusses its purpose.
Today, the FOC assists Jefferson County’s largest employer and Colorado’s largest K-12 school district in overseeing a $1 billion annual budget, more than $1.29 billion in assets, and government-wide liabilities of $724 million. Seven Board-appointed members meet monthly throughout the school year. Current members’ backgrounds encompass banking, public accounting, legal, construction management, municipal management, and investment banking. Members are tasked with assisting the Board in fulfilling its oversight responsibilities, including: serving as an independent and objective party to monitor financial reporting, reviewing internal control systems regarding finance, accounting, legal, compliance and ethics Encouraging improvements and adherence to district policies, procedures and practices at all levels, recommending administrative efficiencies.
Most recently, FOC reviewed the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), discussed the new debt policy, and received a report from the District’s Audit Committee. In previous meetings, we spoke with Greg Smith from PERA regarding long-term financial viability of pension funds, discussed compensation redesign, and reviewed the facilities mas- ter planning requirements and the need for future funding.
The committee has an opportunity to discuss any and all concerns with staff and the external auditors, resulting in recommendations to the board. The FOC provides vital oversight to Jeffco K-12 Schools and has in place the committee structure to do so and do it well.
Jeffco Schools needs to retain independent committees such as the FOC to advise the board and staff. Other board committees assisting the district include: the District Licensed Personnel Performance Evaluation Council; Strategic Planning and Advisory Council (SPAC); Capital Asset Advisory Committee; and Audit Committee.
Board committees are an essential link to our community and its taxpayers. Most importantly, they can provide independent accountability and transparency of the district.
Mary Everson is a Jeffco resident serving on the Financial Oversight Committee.