Monday, February 9, 2009

Impressive: Audit & Accountability Team

This is a copy of an email I just sent to the members of our Board of Education. If you agree, please let them know your thoughts….pl

Members of the Hilliard Board of Education:

Thank you for the excellent job you have done in recruiting and selecting members for the new Audit and Accountability Committee. It is indeed refreshing to see people of this level volunteering to become involved in the fiscal operations of our school district.

But we must remember that auditing is the end step of the operations cycle. First you have to analyze and plan, then execute the plan, then audit and evaluate in preparation for going around the cycle once again. To be sure, your auditing team can be an important part of the overall process design, helping the leadership create systems which can be measured and evaluated, and in doing so making the whole process more transparent.

I encourage you to now turn, with urgency, to the first step - the analysis and planning stage. While many would say our current state funding system is flawed, it is at least the devil we understand. The new state funding system proposed by Governor Strickland is significantly different, enough so that it is not yet clear whether Hilliard City Schools will benefit or suffer under the new rules in the long term. Nor is the political wrangling over, as the General Assembly still has its shot to tweak the plan before it is enacted into law.

You have some critical decisions to make in the next year in regard to our future funding choices, and there are many variables in play. Would the new 'conversion levy' the Governor proposes be a good alternative for us? Will the public accept shifting to a levy format where property taxes increase automatically (ie without a vote) with property values? What happens when the transitional funding guarantees expire? To what degree are our choices influenced by various student growth rates? How important is commercial property valuation growth to the fiscal health of the district? How does the long term cost of labor factor into the equation?

I recommend that you assemble a Strategic Planning team of the same caliber of talent you have recruited for the Audit and Accountability team, and that you give this team the assignment of identifying and analyzing all of these factors, with the goal of presenting a set of alternative scenarios to you for your consideration.

And let us not forget the importance of community education. Regardless of the alternatives developed by a strategic planning team, and the course of action selected by the Board, within the next two years the public will be asked to vote on a levy of some kind, and it could very well be one of these complex conversion levies. The education effort should start immediately, and be part of an ongoing 'communications loop' that the public hears over and over at regular intervals, not just before the levy vote.

As I have said to you before, I would like to be part of this strategic planning team. I and others feel so strongly about the necessity of this planning and education effort that we have formed an independent group to take up the challenge. But it is a founding principle of our group that we wish not to stand in opposition to the School Board, but rather to be embraced as part of the team seeking to attack these issues for the benefit of our community.

I look forward to continued dialog on this matter.

Paul Lambert


  1. Great letter Paul, but I don't see anything on the HCSD web site as to who was selected. Can you fill us in? Thanks.

  2. There's a press release coming out apparently, but here's what Mark and I heard last night:

    Two Year Appointment (January 2009 to December 2010):

    1. Don Bell - fiscal officer, student financial aid at OSU
    2. Les Carrier - attorney
    3. Nathan Painter - attorney
    4. Ed Sarkel - AEP financial officer

    Three Year Appointment (January 2009 to December 2011):

    1. Terri Berchak - internal auditor at Safe Auto
    2. Shawn Hiller - VP/controller-Wendy's franchise operator (CPA/Touche)
    3. Mike Stoner - runs a private equity firm, Price Waterhouse alum
    4. Nathan VanLaningham - VP/Finance Ohio Health

    Folks of this ilk won't sit around and allow their time to be wasted, as I saw happening with both the ACT and Treasurer's Committees, both of which have faded into irrelevance without accomplishing anything.

    This is a test of our district leadership - to sponsor this team in a way that they can deliver the extraordinary thinking we need right now, or squander it by failing to rise out of our bush league mentality.


  3. Thanks. You are right, they seem to be a highly qualified group. And yes, it will be a test of our leadership; can't wait to see their first report as well as the response. Wait - did I say response?
    That might be a first.

  4. Bell, Donald Robert

    Unique name at OSU = don.bell
    Email addresses:
    Published address =
    410 LINCOLN
    COLUMBUS, OH 43210
    +1 614 688 8481
    Student Financial Aid
    Project Coordinator