Comprehensible School Finance at Burkburnett Independent School District
Burkburnett Independent School District (ISD) began posting its school finance data on the Web in 2004 with the posting of the superintendent's budget message. Realizing the public was not always able to attend the school board budget workshops, school officials decided to add the proposed budget on the Web. After receiving positive feedback, they subsequently posted the district's Annual Financial Report (AFR), summary of official budget, budget comparison to prior year, budget presentation and check registers.
Russell Miller, Executive Director of Business and Finance, said that the school district won many friends by posting its finances on the Web. Having the documents widely available also increased public confidence in the school district's decision making. According to Miller, the school district incurred minimal expense by placing the school district finances online. All the work is done internally, with the workload evenly distributed among current employees. The financial information posted online and the way that information is presented has been modified over time.
One lesson the school district learned was how to present technical information in a way that the public can understand. The budget presentation is posted on the Web site in a slideshow format, with color charts showing estimated revenues, expenditures and changes from the previous year's budget. Using visual images instead of the usual tables with detailed lists of numbers makes complex financial data much more accessible. Such extra efforts to creatively present financial data in a user-friendly way are a key to successful efforts at transparency.
According to Miller, the most important steps in implementing financial transparency are building a consensus to get strong administrative support and ensuring that online financial information is accessible and understandable to the public.
Burkburnett ISD's financial information is available on their Web site, under the link “Required Postings.”