A rural Class A school district just east of San Angelo, Veribest was one
of the first in Texas to be completely financially transparent. by Meghan Vail
For five years, Veribest Independent School District (ISD) has published its budgets, financial reports, check registers, tax statements and board meeting minutes online.
Veribest was the 13th school district awarded a Gold Texas Comptroller Leadership Circle designation in recognition of its demonstrated commitment to transparency. The gold seal is featured on the ISD website, along with a public statement on the benefits of transparency.
Veribest’s taxpayers, employees and students can learn how the district spends its budget by accessing the monthly check register online.
Opening the checkbook to the public “makes the district think twice about how it spends its money,” says Bill Merry, director of technology. Merry and Business Manager Denise Dusek maintain high transparency standards by publishing current data in a timely fashion.
Merry believes that Veribest ISD’s unique annual community workshop is the key to public confidence in the district’s financial decisions.
“Our March workshops lay it all out on the table,” he says. During the workshops, board members, administrative staff, educators, students and parents examine the budget and decide how to have the greatest educational impact on students and teachers.
Because the community collectively decides what its financial priorities should be, “when a community member sees an initiative being implemented, he or she doesn’t wonder who came up with it,” Merry says. “He or she says, ‘I was a part of this process.’”
Finding ways to save while providing students with the best technology possible has been a VISD priority and is directly attributable to transparency. Merry estimates that by employing thin client technology and saving on hardware, machine replacements and work equipment, Veribest has saved an estimated $765,000 in classroom technology over the past six years.
“When you can demonstrate these savings,” he says, “you are truly at the leading edge of financial transparency.”