This letter makes reference to the June 5 Auburn Citizen story titled
J-E school board racing clock to revise budget
JE's suspended assistant superintendent of business and finance Bill Hamilton's record speaks for itself - outstanding financial audits every year, an outstanding state audit, creation of a central business office and countless other systems, and an outstanding performance evaluation by former superintendent Marilyn Dominick even after he was suspended by the board of education without cause on July 7, 2010. Hamilton has spoken at two international conferences on school finance and consolidation in the last three years and spoke last summer at the NYS Association of School Business Officials conference about regional transportation.
If newly hired interim business official Joe Coleman is pointing a finger at Hamilton when he refers to the district's Chart of Accounts as "discombobulated" and a "hidden reserve," then he is quite mistaken. (Note, a COA is a listing of all the account codes a school district uses.)
The COA created by Hamilton is believed by many to be one of the best in the state. The logic and thinking that went into the design of the COA is outstanding. I know firsthand having worked with this account structure for six years. I heard a state examiner from the Office of the State Comptroller say he really liked JE's COA because it is transparent and very detailed.
Hamilton's detailed COA is not just for budgeting purposes. It handles operational and planning needs masterfully (e.g., requisitioning, departmental budgeting, project tracking, revenue maximization and strategic planning). Hamilton frequently said, "You cannot manage what you do not know." The end result has in fact been greater efficiency, accountability and better internal controls.
Schools are complex systems and require complex tools to analyze the financial data to produce meaningful insights, especially in difficult financial times.
This year's budget at the most summative state reporting level (called ST-3) has 176 accounts. Coleman declared that he will reduce the number of detailed accounts to 200 accounts (just 24 accounts more than the most summative level of accounting). In a single stroke he will wipe out the existing ability to track costs in detail.
JE Citizen for Fiscal Responsibility, business owner, former part-time account clerk at JE Schools