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Case Study

How Lake Zurich Community Unit School District 95 Quickly and Easily Shares Financial Data with the Community

How Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations Dr. Dean Romano shares the district’s financial story to schoolboard and community stakeholders — without adding extra work for his team.

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District Background

Like all school districts, Lake Zurich Community Unit School District 95 wanted quick and accurate access to their financial data. And like many others in school business, working with that massive amount of data took time. Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations Dr. Dean Romano said the challenge was regularly keeping the right information in front of the right people. “One of the biggest challenges is, I can build these reports and that part’s not hard, but what I struggled with was building it in a timely fashion, so that we could include it in our regular work.”

Dr. Romano and his team set out to build a financial dashboard that would represent their fiscal position.

They established a committee of stakeholders from across the school system and the town — administrators, teachers, residents, and community partners — to ensure it met the needs of those who would be using the dashboard. How could they make live data accessible to the community? And since they didn’t want to burden the business office with extra unnecessary work, what level of effort would be required? “We wanted to make sure that we were not making massive amounts of additional effort for the business office team in putting this together, because then it would be difficult to maintain. In other words, we’d get the big splash, but then we wouldn’t be able to live in it.”

Dr. Romano also wanted to use the data from the dashboard to inform his financial plan and board presentations. And crucially, it needed to be presented graphically. Lake Zurich CUSD 95 worked with Frontline’s Analytics suite (formerly Forecast5 Analytics) to build the District 95 Financial Dashboard.

A Clear Financial Picture

Dr. Romano said that the board loves the access to data that the dashboard provides. “We believe that it’s really knocked it out of the park. Our board is extremely proud of it. We’ve won an award here in the state for financial reporting as a result of it. And it’s manageable. It really isn’t something that is extra, it’s something that’s just part of the process.”

The ability to explain district finances in layman’s terms is especially helpful when communicating with those without a finance background. Even teachers have commented on it — which Dr. Romano says isn’t something he’s seen often in the past. Recently a teacher approached him about how much they liked it. “It was one of those genuine conversations that just comes up, and it was really refreshing because then it means that it met the target audience. And if the staff knows that the information’s there and then they can walk through it, boy, is that powerful.”

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Planning for the Future

Dr. Romano has been using Frontline Analytics for years, and finds it makes a huge difference as he works with the district budget, since it’s so intuitive and the visual reporting is so helpful. “I’ll be honest, I don’t know how I would put together my reporting for the budget without it.”

Recently, Dr. Romano’s office was trying to assemble a balanced budget. Some funds were fully funded while others weren’t, and the transportation fund was particularly challenging. Because tax levies in Illinois are split across multiple fiscal years, it was difficult to determine how to ensure the tax levy matched up to when the buses would need to be replaced. “It makes it extremely complicated, and without being able to forecast out multiple years in advance, it was going to cause us some real struggle. Whatever I did in year X for the levy would take two years to be realized, and again, it would have to be identified in future years.”

Dr. Romano used Frontline’s Financial Planning Analytics to forecast several years into the future to determine when they would need the resources for the new fleet and changed the levy to meet the need. It was a complicated process, but the ability to forecast over multiple years was what enabled success. “I’ll be honest, outside of having the tools where I could plug it in into the future, it would’ve been very difficult to do that by other means.”

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Taking Back Time

Dr. Romano and his team can quickly publish data in a way that meets everyone’s needs. “I can get the reporting done, pull the information from our system and get it uploaded and have it shared with our board, in less than 15 minutes a month.”

Dr. Romano said the ability to quickly access data and present it in an easily understandable way is a game-changer. “I like to say we’re in charge of the buses, the burgers, the buildings, and the bucks, and finance is the area with the highest expectations. And to be able to have the efficiency that the software provides to get to the information quickly so that I can then explain it in very straightforward terms while I’m in the middle of running around making sure that we get the kids fed and the buses are picking up the kids, it helps. It creates space in my day because it doesn’t take me as long to do what needs to get done on the finance and forecasting side.”

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“The software helps me to do what needs to get done while I’m in the middle of doing all the things that need to be done.”

Dr. Dean Romano
– Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations