Chief financial officer Saundra Buchanan of the Hood River County School District retired — officially — at the end of the month. Her last formal day was June 30, but Buchanan has agreed to stay on until her replacement is found. The district started recruitment June 15.
Buchanan has been CFO of HRCSD for seven years. During her tenure, she worked to improve the financial condition of the district as well as increase its financial accountability and transparency, according to district officials.
Under her watch, the district produced its first-ever Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFR), a detailed presentation of the district’s financial condition for each fiscal year. The three CAFR’s produced during Buchanan’s tenure each earned the Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Association of School Business Officials (ASBO).
“I would credit Saundra with turning around the financial stewardship of this district,” said Chrissy Reitz, HRCSD board chair. “The trust our community has in us as a district has a lot to do with her financial transparency and oversight.” She noted the most recent school district bond levy, which voters passed by 76 percent. “That doesn’t happen unless you have someone who is proving that you’re doing a good job with their money.
“It is with very mixed emotions and sincere appreciation, HRCSD owes a debt of gratitude to Saundra for her service,” Reitz said. “She worked to improve the district’s financial condition and increased accountability and transparency. She worked tirelessly, and has earned every bit of her retirement bliss.”
The district’s improved financial position was recognized by S&P Global Ratings in January 2019, when it raised the district’s underlying bond rating to “AA-“ from “A+” on its previously issued general obligation bonds.
In her letter notifying the district of her retirement, Buchanan said, “In my seven years serving the district, I have been fortunate to have worked alongside some of the best and brightest professional and support staff and we have accomplished much together.” She added that the district’s business services team “is strong and committed to the many process improvements we have implemented.”
Buchanan and her staff earned the credit this spring when the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO) awarded Hood River County School District the Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting (COE). ASBO International’s COE recognizes districts that have met the program’s high standards for financial reporting and transparency. The school district earned the Certificate of Excellence for its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the fiscal year ended 2019.
“The COE’s mission is to promote and recognize excellence in financial reporting, specifically through a district’s CAFR,” ASBO International Executive Director David Lewis said in a press release. “The CAFR informs stakeholders about the financial and economic state of the district, making it an important communications tool for building trust.”
By participating in the COE program, districts demonstrate their commitment to financial transparency. Applicants submit their CAFR for review by professionals, who provide feedback. If the CAFR meets the requirements of the program, the document may receive the Certificate of Excellence. Participation in the COE program can facilitate bond rating and continuing bond disclosure processes.