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The financial world is rules-bound, and Tammy Short knows education finance creates many additional layers of rules to follow. As chief financial officer for the Ozark R-6 School District, she must ensure the roughly $60 million annual budget stays in full compliance with state and federal tax laws, special education and Title funding requirements, and the Every Student Succeeds Act, which outlines how school funds are spent on local, county, state and federal levels.
“Compliance with taxation and regulatory requirements is crucial,” Short says. “In the years I have been in this position, we have always maintained a clean audit and even had several commendations from our auditors.”
Ozark Superintendent Kevin Patterson says while independent state auditors haven’t identified any problem areas, Short has proactively changed internal financial processes to make things more transparent.
“Although great audits are beneficial as a recipient of taxpayers’ funds, transparency with our constituents, community and staff members is paramount,” Short says.
Maintaining a balanced budget is not always easy, she says, because a school district doesn’t control all parts of the equation.
“A school district does not have the ability to increase sales/revenue. However, it is extremely important for me to understand and have a strong knowledge base of where and how our revenue is generated,” Short says, referring to the state funding formula and local taxes.
Short says she stays informed of assessed values and the county assessor’s collections in order to budget accordingly and keep the board of education informed.
Since revenue can only be forecasted, Short has focused her attention on controlling costs.
“I begin by conducting monthly budget meetings with the superintendent,” she says. “We look at three-to-five-year cost trends to analyze areas of concern. I also meet with a finance committee three times a year to assist with a long-range financial plan. The committee is made up of district and community representatives, including board members. This process helps me see the district’s financial needs through different lenses and aids in the development of a comprehensive plan.”
Knowing that things don’t always go according to plan, however, Short recently organized the Bang for the Buck committee with nearly 50 members representing all areas of the district. The committee’s goal is to proactively examine expenditures through the eyes of internal and external audiences.
“If a financial crisis should occur, as a district we could react to necessary cuts proactively rather than reactively,” Short says. “This committee examines where we might make current adjustments in order to best meet the needs of our district and community.”
Patterson is quick to recognize Short’s impact beyond the financial realm.
“While her focus has been on finances, her leadership has helped our district improve and reach our mission of ‘Student Dedicated Every Day; Student Driven in Every Way,’” he says.
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