Gilmer ISD earns top rating, again
by PHILLIP WILLIAMS
Oct 13, 2011 | 651 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Gilmer Independent School District has received the highest possible rating of “superior” achievement under the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas, School Supt. Rick Albritton told the school board Monday night.

Gilmer received 76 of a possible 80 points from the state’s financial accountability rating system for the 2009-2010 school year, said Albritton, who added that the ratings are “always a year and a half late.”

The state government determines the rating based on questions about 22 “indicators.”

They include such matters as whether the annual financial report disclosed any material weaknesses in internal controls, whether the district’s academic rating exceeded “unacceptable,” whether the district had money in its general fund,and so forth.

“Overall, we’re very proud of this (rating). . .Our financial status is very, very strong,” Albritton told the board. Added GISD Business Manager Beverly Grimes, “I think we did really well,” noting that the school’s few shortcomings came in areas where it was “very close (to the acceptable standard) or not anything we did wrong.”

For example, GISD lost two points for having higher debt-related expenses than the state desires, but Albritton indicated that was because district voters approved a bond issue. Gilmer ISD pays about $1.5 million annually in debt while the state suggests no more than $750,000, he explained.

The district also lost one point because its tax collection rate of 97.95 percent was short of the 98 percent desired minimum rate, he pointed out. And GISD also lost a point because “we have a little more overall staff than what the state recommends,” though staffing was “significantly” reduced this school year, Albritton said.

At the board’s public hearing on the school’s rating, Albritton discussed the district’s finances in detail. He said it had a fund balance of about $5 million, that it had a “clean audit,” and that “all of our investments are very conservative,” limited to government-backed securities.

He also said the school’s administrative cost ratio was “efficient,” as it was “less than half what the state recommends.”

Board member Jeff Rash told Albritton the report from the system, known by the acronym FIRST, was “kind of your report card.” Rash praised the superintendent and Mrs. Grimes, saying “there’s not a lot of school districts” who annually receive the superior rating (as Gilmer has).

A press release issued by GISD after Monday’s hearing said the district has achieved the “Superior Achievement” rating for all nine years of FIRST, which was developed by the Texas Education Agency in response to state legislation approved in 1999.

“The primary goal of Schools FIRST is to achieve quality performance in the management of school districts’ financial resources, a goal made more significant due to the complexity of accounting associated with Texas’ school finance system,” the release said.

The FIRST system assigns one of four financial accountability ratings to school districts — “Superior Achievement,” followed by Above-Standard Achievement, Standard Achievement,and Substandard Achievement.

The press release quotes Albritton as saying GISD’s rating “shows that our district is making the most of our taxpayers’ dollars. This rating shows that Gilmer’s schools are accountable not only for student learning, but also for achieving these results cost-effectively and efficiently.”
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