The Governmental Accounting Standards Board has published a new user guide to help taxpayers understand the financial statements of local school districts.

The guide can help taxpayers better understand how their money is being spent on public education, the difference between a school district's budget and its financial statements, how to determine if a school district's financial health is improving or declining, and what assets a school district owns, and how much it owes. The user guide aims to help taxpayers and parents understand what a school district's financial report says.

The guide is the second in an expanded and revised series published this year by GASB, which accounting standards for nearly 90,000 local and state governments in the U.S., including more than 13,000 independent public school districts.

What You Should Know about Your School District's Finances: A Guide to Financial Statements, 2nd edition, offers parents, teachers, school board members, educational advocacy groups, and other people who need financial information about public education a comprehensive, easy-to-understand primer on the annual financial reports issued by school districts. The guide includes major new reporting requirements issued by the GASB since the publication of the original guide in 2000, in areas that include retiree health insurance and fund balance. The guide includes more than 50 annotated examples of school district financial statements, notes, and schedules, a storyline designed to help the reader understand the concepts, an introduction to basic financial ratios used to analyze school district finances, helpful boxes and sidebars further exploring issues raised in the text, an overview of school district accounting and financial reporting, and a glossary of terms.

"Like other governments, school districts take special care to demonstrate that they are accountable to the public for keeping track of what money is collected and how it is spent," said GASB Chairman Robert H. Attmore in a statement. "This guide helps taxpayers and parents understand what a financial report says. The guide shows how valuable school district financial information is when participating in a variety of important decisions, such as allocating budget resources among programs; choosing where to send a child to school, buy a house, or locate a business; voting in a school board election or on a district's annual budget; or buying a school district's bonds."

The guide costs $14.95 and can be ordered by visiting GASB's online store, or calling (800) 748-0659. 

GASB plans to release additional guides in the months ahead, including:

What You Should Know about the Finances of Your Business-Type Activities is a new guide devoted to the unique features of financial reporting by the activities that governments operate similar to businesses by charging fees in return for service, such as public utilities, airports, public hospitals, and public colleges and universities.

An Analyst's Guide to Government Financial Statements, 2nd edition, is written for experienced and frequent users of governmental financial statements. The guide covers the information in all of the major notes and supporting schedules in an annual financial report and explores basic analytical techniques for using that information to assess economic condition, financial position, liquidity, solvency, fiscal capacity, and risk exposure in a state or local government report.

In addition, the newly updated and revised edition of What You Should Know about Your Local Government's Finances is now available from GASB.

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