School Views: How we spend taxpayer dollars responsibly

Eagle County School District has long held a priority of financial transparency and fiduciary responsibility. This is demonstrated through the numerous honors and accolades we have been presented with over the past decade.

The Government Finance Officers Association annually awards the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting, and Eagle County School District has been recognized with said award for its annual comprehensive financial report for the past 10 years. The results from the 2022-23 school year are expected to be shared in the coming months, and we’re optimistic that our legacy of financial excellence will again be recognized.

These reports are judged by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the program, which includes demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate others to read the report. The ECSD Business Services Department recently published an interactive, online school district budget book, the first school district to do so in Colorado. Working with ClearGov, a website that traditionally publishes municipality and other governmental agency budgets online for transparency, we wanted to lead the way for Colorado public school districts and step into the same arena in support of financial transparency.

The GFOA’s Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by an organization and its management. To have been honored with this award since 2015 is a testament to Sandy Farrell, our chief operating officer, and her business services team.

The GFOA also recognizes Best Practices in School Budgeting, an honor Eagle County School District has been recognized with for both 2019 and 2020. In addition, Eagle County School District has been recognized by the Association of School Business Officials International with the Meritorious Budget Award for its excellence in the preparation and issuance of its annual fiscal budget for the past five years. I would encourage you to visit our website for a complete list of recent achievements, as there are many and I’d hate to leave any out.

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As I have mentioned before, funding for Eagle County School District is allocated by the state in what I consider a broken system. Limited dollars only go so far, and we have a number of goals to accomplish, including affordable housing for our community. We have an extraordinary business services department that applies its expertise in responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars to help us address these challenges.

Our Miller Flats housing project will provide 37 affordable rental units in Edwards, and the construction has been funded without the use of any taxpayer dollars. Instead, the district creatively used certificates of participation to fund the project, which acts more like a mortgage. The monthly payments for the certificates are covered by the rental income generated.

I appreciate the extensive hard work of our business services department. Our website also provides much greater detail of our budget in accordance with Article 44, Title 22 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. Included on our website are things such as comprehensive financial reports, salary schedules, check registers of accounts payable and receivable, and more. These documents are welcome to be reviewed by all and further support our efforts of financial responsibility.

We also have an external finance committee that helps ensure the district functions in a fiscally prudent manner, with a high level of financial stewardship. This committee is made up of interested community members, typically with an experienced background in finances. The committee reviews the annual comprehensive financial report, quarterly reports, state audit, budget, and other financial information through interactive discussion with the Eagle County School District Board of Education. Quarterly updates are provided to the board in order to maintain continued communication.

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We consider ourselves truly fortunate to do the work we do, and we appreciate the collaborative efforts of our supportive community and your ability to help keep our organization accountable. If you’re interested in joining our finance committee or want to learn more about school finances, please contact Sandy Farrel at

Philip Qualman is the superintendent of Eagle County School District. Email him at

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