District 51 one of 24 in state compliant with financial transparency law

School District 51 is one of 24 Colorado school districts listed in a new study as “fully compliant” with a 2010 state law that requires school districts to post financial information online.

Golden-based research organization Independence Institute checked 195 Colorado school districts and boards of cooperative educational services for compliance with the Public School Financial Transparency Act. The law required districts to post budgets; salary schedules; check, debit and credit card purchases; and other financial documents online for free by July 1, 2011.

District 51 posts financial information at mesa.k12.co.us/budget/transparency.cfm. District 51 Superintendent Steve Schultz said he’s happy to comply with the law, which simply takes putting current reports in a format that can be uploaded to the district’s website.

“It’s taxpayer money,” he said. “It’s always been our intent to be as transparent as possible.”

The data have been available for public viewing, just not always online. District 51 Executive Director of Support Services Melissa Callahan DeVita said some of the information, such as checks, were not posted before the law was created because the documents don’t explain what was purchased.

Independence Institute researchers checked school district websites for financial information on July 1 and Oct. 1. The number of compliant districts remained the same at 24 on both dates.

By Oct. 1, 69 districts were “almost compliant,” meaning they skipped or partially complied with all but one or two requirements of the law. That group included Delta School District 50J, Garfield County School District 16 in Parachute, Garfield Re-2 in Rifle and Montrose County School District RE-1J.

De Beque School District 49-JT, Plateau Valley School District 50 and West End School District Re-2 in Montrose County were listed as partially compliant, which means they met more than two but fewer than eight of the 10 requirements of the law.

Forty school districts posted none of the required information online, or they complied with one or two requirements.

Independence Institute Senior Policy Analyst Ben DeGrow said most of the compliant districts are large, but ones such as Silverton, he said, “show small districts it can be done.” He said he believes more districts will comply with the law a year from now as they learn more about it, especially if citizens ask for it.

“There isn’t a great deal of incentive for people to comply. It’s on the honor system,” he said. “Districts could face a downgrade in accreditation, but we’re not aware of any particular cases where it’s been applied.”


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