Board candidate's 'fudging' accusation offensive, off-base

To the Editor:

I reply to the Sept. 19 article, "Candidate thinks district reports 'fudging numbers,' '' in which school board candidate Katy Barricklow claims, "The school board needs board members who are more fiscally responsible with our hard-earned tax dollars" and says the district needs a full financial audit.

While offended by these statements, I write to educate Ms. Barricklow and fellow community members.

I led the Olentangy school board's Finance and Audit Committee and have served on this committee since 2005. I have degrees in accounting and finance, have worked in accounting for 32 years and am a CFO of a corporation in the district. My fellow committee members also have expertise in finance and accounting. We advise the district on finances and review forecasts semiannually, where we challenge assumptions and projections. We attend annual meetings with external auditors, work on special projects and present our findings and recommendations to the school board in public sessions.

I assure Ms. Barricklow that the books are balanced and that the district is responsible with our tax dollars. A full audit is performed annually, and in the nine years I have served on the committee, I have seen no evidence that the district "fudges" numbers.

Ms. Barricklow stated that the district "is racking up debt that equals more than $20,000 per student." This is misleading, as it assumes the debt is paid in one year when the bonds for buildings have a 28-year duration and the buildings have a life of 40-plus years. The annual principal and interest debt service is about $1,660 per student.

The Ohio Department of Education calculates every district's annual operating cost per student. Olentangy's 2012 cost was $9,599; adding the $1,660 annual debt service brings the total to $11,259, which is well below just the costs in comparable districts including Dublin, Upper Arlington, New Albany, Bexley, Worthington and Hilliard.

School finances are complicated, and no one enjoys paying taxes. However, those unfamiliar with school finances might assume a district isn't being financially prudent or is "fudging" numbers. I invite Ms. Barricklow and those interested in learning about Olentangy's finances to attend our committee meetings; our schedule is posted on the district website. Those in attendance will see the complexities of school finance and will appreciate the due diligence of the district treasurer, the school board and the committee.

Michael Tracy