As the previous paragraphs suggest, conventional and intermediate school districts and charter schools must adhere to a detailed set of accounting rules. State government and federal government frequently change these rules as the Michigan Legislature and U.S. Congress impose new reporting requirements, programs and laws on the districts. The districts’ accounting rules are also governed by the Government Accounting Standards Board, which determines generally accepted accounting principles for government entities. These principles are used by auditors when expressing opinions about the financial statements of a school district or other government unit.
GASB issued new standards for reporting financial statements in 1999, but local units of government were not required to adhere to them until after June 15, 2003. The reporting changes, outlined in GASB Statement No. 34, produce government accounting practices that now more closely resemble those used in the private sector. One key format change involves financial statement audits that show original budget numbers, not just amended and final budget numbers. According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, this shift is intended to make it easier for school districts and other units of government to determine how well they are forecasting budget needs. The new GASB standards are also intended to promote greater transparency concerning a government unit’s financial position, as opposed to its compliance with legal constraints.