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Chapter 4Financial Performance Indicatorsand MeasuresFinancial Condition and Key Ratios—Definitions and UsesAnalysis of a school district’s financial condition is generally based on data elements used to construct a seriesof ratios that depict the short- and long-term district financial situation. These ratios aid in the interpretationof finance data and are used in financial statements and reports to compare the relationship between financialelements. For example, it is difficult to assess whether revenues are sufficient by reviewing revenues alone.Rather, it is more meaningful to compare revenues with another financial element, such as liabilities or net assets.This produces a measure that is comparable for different fiscal periods for the same entity and among othersimilar entities. Ratios are useful tools for financial statement analysis because they conveniently summarizedata in a form that is more easily understood, interpreted, and compared.Several possible standards that might be used include:the planned ratio for the period being analyzed;the corresponding ratio during the preceding year, or some average of past years;the corresponding ratio from a peer school district or the state-wide average; andthe legislatively mandated benchmark for the ratio.As components of financial statements and reports, these ratios are used both internally by the school district tomonitor and assess district finances and practices, and externally by legislators, taxpayers, parents, and otherswho wish to assess aspects of school district accountability.Most financial statement analysis is directed at the financial soundness of the district through its ability toprovide services in relation to the tax structure, tax base, state and local economic climate, supply and cost ofstaff and resources, enrollment, and demand for services. Reviewing current and past financial indicators in thecontext of these outside variables can provide some insight into the management decisionmaking process tomaintain the solvency of the district.Several states use financial information to set benchmarks based on multiyear trends of specific financialmeasures that determine whether districts are beginning to experience financial difficulty, so that internal orexternal policy actions can be taken to correct the situation. Additionally, rating agencies look at the current andpast financial situation of the school district through a series of financial measures that represent a distinct andimportant composite of district financial indicators. Local taxpayers can also use district financial information tomake informed decisions on local tax referenda as well as the need for participation in the local budget approvalprocess.Chapter 1: Introduction35

Recently, there has been significant interest nationally in developing measures of efficiency in the use ofresources. This involves linking student achievement with the financial resources expended to produce thedesired academic performance. This measure is often referred to as Return on Investment, and provides anotherassessment of school and/or district accountability for performance.The following sets of ratios are categorized into major areas and represent some of the more common financialratios used (Meade 2001). These ratios can be modified to reflect per pupil or per capita figures, dependingon the use of the measure. Some ratios incorporate a period of time and inherently reflect growth or changein the indicator. Others are point-in-time indicators, but can also be viewed sequentially through time-seriesanalysis. Ratios can also be compared between districts through cross-sectional analysis. In either case, caremust be taken to ensure the comparability of data either across districts or within the same district over timeif major or one-time changes have occurred.All definitions are presented in broad aggregate terms relating to assets and expenses, and can be furtherrefined to address specific assets and expenses using the same methodology to evaluate a particular financialcategory within the school district. For example, financial position ratios can be based on unrestricted assets,restricted assets, or capital assets, as well as the more general ratio using total assets. Similarly, all definitionscan be refined to incorporate particular funds, programs, or revenues. All ratios can also be modified to a perstudent basis. Basic definitions of accounting and finance terms used can be found in Siegel and Shim (2005)and Downes and Goodman (2006).It should also be noted that no one ratio should be used to evaluate the financial condition or capacity of theschool district. The ratio should be used to identify financial issues that may require further assessment.Financial Condition IndicatorsKey ratios of the financial condition of a school district assist in evaluating the district’s current financial situationas well as provide insight into the district’s ability to continue providing services in the future. In general, thesefinancial ratios can be categorized as measures of financial position, liquidity, solvency, and fiscal capacity.Financial Position RatiosFinancial position ratios are used to evaluate the current and past financial condition of a school district in termsof the nature of its debts and obligations and the resources available to repay them.Financial PositionThis ratio is used to evaluate a school district’s financial position at a given time based on a comparison of theresources it generally owns or controls with its obligations. It is calculated as:(Assets – Liabilities) / Total RevenuesThis measure can be modified to use expenses (net assets divided by total expenses or operating expenses),fund balances (fund balance divided by total expenditures, revenues, or operating revenues), or unreservedfund balance (unreserved fund balance divided by total expenditures, revenues, or operating revenues).36Forum Guide to Core Finance Data Elements

Change in Financial PositionA change in financial position is measured in terms of change in net assets divided by total revenues. This ratiois used to evaluate the change in a school district’s financial position based on a comparison of the resources itgenerally owns or controls with the obligations it faces. It provides information as to how the financial positionof the school district has changed over time. It is calculated as:(Net Assets – Net Assets ) / Total RevenuesebeWhere:b beginning of time period, ande end of time period.This indicator can be modified to use expenses (change in net assets divided by total expenses or operatingexpenses), fund balances (change in fund balance divided by total revenues, operating revenues, or expenditures),or unreserved fund balance (change in unreserved fund balance divided by total revenues, operating revenues,or expenditures). This ratio shows the direction of change in financial position over a period of time, whereasfinancial position is a point-in-time measure.Liquidity RatiosLiquidity ratios are used to evaluate whether a school district will be able to meet its obligations in the short runand whether it will have sufficient resources to cover ongoing operating costs.Current RatioThis ratio is used to evaluate a school district’s ability to cover its obligations with existing resources. It iscalculated as:Current Assets / Current LiabilitiesWhere:Current Assets are defined as cash, accounts receivable, inventory, and other assets that are likely to beconverted into cash, sold, exchanged, or expensed in the normal course of business, usually within a year; andCurrent Liabilities are defined as debt or other obligations coming due within a year (Downes and Goodman2006).Quick RatioThe quick ratio is measured in terms of the sum of cash and current investments divided by current liabilities.This ratio is used to evaluate a school district’s ability to meet its current obligations using only the most liquidassets—generally cash, near cash assets such as money market funds, other short-term investments, andsometimes receivables. It is calculated as:(Cash Current Investments) / Current LiabilitiesWhere:Current Investments (short-term investments) are defined as funds placed in securities that are expected to beheld for one year or less (Siegel and Shim 2005).Chapter 4: Financial PerformanceChapterIndicatorsMeasures1: andIntroduction37

Solvency RatiosSolvency ratios are used to evaluate a school district’s ability to repay its long-term obligations, such as bonds,or to cover future costs, such as compensated absences and leave pay. Solvency ratios are categorized eitheras leverage ratios or coverage ratios. Leverage ratios are used to determine the degree to which a schooldistrict’s assets are financed through borrowing and other long-term obligations. Coverage ratios compare cashflows to a district’s debt repayments, both interest and principal.Debt-to-Assets RatioThis ratio is used to evaluate the degree to which a school district has resources necessary to repay its debt. Itis calculated as:Total Liabilities / Total AssetsDebt-to-Net-Assets RatioThis ratio is used to evaluate the degree to which available resources for providing public services by the districtare financed through debt. It is calculated as:Total Liabilities / Net AssetsTimes-Interest-Earned RatioThis ratio compares cash flows generated by operations to interest payments on debt. It is calculated as:(Cash Flow from Operations Interest) / InterestWhere:Cash Flow (General Funds Revenues Special Funds Revenues – General Funds Current Expenditures – SpecialFunds Current Expenditures); andInterest Interest on Long-Term Debt for Governmental and Business-Type Activities.Debt Service Coverage RatioThis ratio compares cash flows to all debt repayments, both interest and principal. It is calculated as:(Cash Flow from Operations Debt Service) / Debt ServiceWhere:Debt Service (Interest on Long-Term Debt for Governmental and Business-Type Activities PrincipalRepayments for Long-Term Debt for Governmental and Business-Type Activities).Fiscal Capacity RatiosFiscal capacity ratios measure a school district’s ability to generate resources that can be used to finance theprovisions of services to students. Many of these indicators combine a school district’s financial statementinformation with economic, demographic, and tax-related data. These ratios compare revenues, expenses, anddebt to measure the community’s ability to pay for school district services. Full-time equivalent student countsare used in many of the following ratios; however, other measures of student counts can be substituted.38Forum Guide to Core Finance Data Elements

Taxable Property per Student(Total Taxable Property Value) / (Total Full-Time Equivalent Students)Property Tax Revenues per 100 of Assessed Property Value(Total Property Tax Revenues x 100) / (Total Assessed Property Value)Note: This produces an effective tax rate rather than the rate levied.Taxes per Student(Total Tax Revenues) / (Total Full-Time-Equivalent Students)Debt per 100 of Assessed Property Value(Total Liabilities x 100) / (Total Assessed Property Value)Debt per Student(Total Liabilities) / (Total Full-Time-Equivalent Students)Revenue and Expenditure AnalysisRevenues and expenditures are two key sets of elements used in the financial analysis of school districts. Bothrevenue and expenditure data elements are identified with account codes at their most detailed level and canbe aggregated into larger levels of revenues and expenditures, depending on how the data will be used forreporting and analysis. Revenues and expenditures are the primary components used to create financial ratiosby presenting an amount per specified base, such as revenue or current expenditure per pupil. Common revenueclassifications include local, state, intermediate, and federal sources, and are further classified by the sourceof revenue generation, such as local property tax. Common expenditure classifications include operating (orcurrent), capital, and debt service, and are generally reported at the school district level and aggregated tothe state level. These classifications may be disaggregated into functional areas in order to provide a moredetailed financial analysis. For example, community services expenditures may be excluded from total currentoperating expenditures in order to identify expenditures specifically related to public elementary and secondaryeducation.Equity MeasuresThe study of equity in funding public education is not a new concept. Elwood Cubberley in the early 1900swas the first to question the differences in resources available to school children. In the early 1970s,equity concerns were heightened by two landmark lawsuits: (1) Serrano v. Priest (487 P. 2d 1241, 1971) and(2) Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez (411 U.S. 1, 1972). Both of these lawsuits addressedequity, although many scholars argue that Brown v. Board of Education (1954) was the real beginning oflegal tests of equitable resources and opportunities for all children.The use of statistical equity measures to examine the differences in dollars available to students betweendistricts within a state became prevalent with the increased litigation. The inequity that was examined focusedon the inability of school districts with lower property wealth (fiscal capacity) to generate revenues comparableto those available to districts with higher property wealth.1: andIntroductionChapter 4: Financial PerformanceChapterIndicatorsMeasures39

Equity in education finance research is often viewed in two different but interrelated ways. School financeresearchers look at equity as being either horizontal or vertical. Horizontal equity means that persons whoare similarly situated (e.g., all students) are treated similarly. Vertical equity addresses persons with differingneeds, such as students with disabilities, students with limited English pro