Thursday, December 7, 2023

Hood County school districts earn ‘A’s in financial accountability


The independent school districts of Tolar, Granbury and Lipan each recently received an “A” rating in financial accountability from the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

Established in 2001 by the 77th Texas Legislature, the school Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) ensures that Texas public schools are held accountable for the quality of their financial management practices and that they improve these practices, according to the TEA website.

The system is designed to encourage Texas public schools to better manage their financial resources to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes.

According to an article by the Texas Education Agency, 88% of Texas public schools received an “A” or “Superior Achievement” rating for 2022-2023, exemplifying high-quality financial management practices.

Ratings for 2022-2023 are based on annual financial reports provided to TEA by school systems for the 2022 fiscal year, according to the article. These reports are subsequently reviewed by the agency and a rating is assigned.

School systems are assigned one of four possible letter grades (A, B, C, or F) under financial accountability ratings, as well as a coinciding financial management rating (Superior Achievement, Above Standard Achievement, Meets Standard Achievement or Substandard Achievement).

Tolar ISD received a perfect score of 100, with the district announcing the success on its Facebook page on Nov. 6, adding that the “Superior Achievement” rating is the state’s highest, and that it demonstrates the quality of Tolar ISD’s financial management and reporting system.

“Our business office staff does a great job in regard to managing our district resources,” Tolar ISD Superintendent Travis Stilwell said in an email to the Hood County News. “Their work is commendable, and we are pleased with the ‘Superior’ rating received.”

Granbury ISD also received a perfect score of 100, with Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Glenn adding that the district is excited to earn this honor for its sixth consecutive year.

“A Superior Financial Rating from TEA is a credit to our school board for being fiscally-responsible stewards of our district, and our business office, led by CFO (Chief Financial Officer) Emmett Whitefield, for their dedication and attention to detail,” Glenn said in an email to the HCN.

Lipan ISD earned a 98 in its financial accountability rating, with Superintendent Ralph Carter stating that it’s an “expectation” for districts to have financial stability and financial transparency.

"Our rating has been ‘A’ for the last 15 to 20 years for sure,” Carter said, in an email to the HCN. “We work hard to make sure it stays that way.”

According to the article from TEA, FIRST ratings are calculated using 20 financial indicators for both traditional school districts and public charter schools, such as administrative cost expenditures; the accuracy of a district or charter school’s financial information submitted to TEA; and any financial vulnerabilities or material weaknesses in internal controls as determined by an external auditor.  

Final FIRST ratings for the 2022-2023 school year show that a total of 1,046 districts and charter schools earned an A rating, 80 earned a B, 55 earned a C and 11 earned an F.

To review the final 2022-2023 FIRST ratings for all school systems (plus view final FIRST ratings from previous years), visit the TEA School FIRST web page for school districts or Charter FIRST web page for charter schools. Both can be found by visiting online.