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System awarded
Praised by state for financial reporting
A-Finance award pic
From left to right, Payroll/Benefits Administrator Diane Allison, Claire Arnold, Director of the Education Audit Division for the State of Georgia, Director of Financial Services Jamie Ulrich, Staff Accountant Sherri Autry and Gail Lowman, Accounts Payable Receivable pose with the Award of Distinction for Excellent Financial Reporting presented by Allison during Mondays board meeting. - photo by David Renner Dawson Community News

The Dawson County school system was honored by the state Monday night for its financial reporting.

A state auditing team presented the Board of Education with the Award of Distinction for Excellent Financial Reporting. The district was one of just 26 in the state's 180 to receive this first-year award.

"This past year, the state auditor wanted to start recognizing those systems that we audit that did an outstanding job," said Claire Arnold, director of Georgia's education audit division. "We do over 236 annually ... and these entities make our job a whole lot easier."

The board of education's finance department is made up of: Jamie Ulrich, director of financial services; Gail Lowman, accounts payable receivable; Sherri Autry, staff accountant; and Dianne Allison, payroll/benefits administrator.

"It's a pleasure to award this distinction to the Dawson County Board of Education. There are a lot of attributes that awardees had to meet," Arnold said. "This system's report was the cleanest opinion that we can issue, which is an unmodified opinion. That's the best you can do. There were no findings in the report that needed correcting."

The state of the Dawson County school system's finances made a quick impression on new Superintendent Damon Gibbs when he was eyeing the position.

"I came in the door more than impressed with our financial department," he said. "This system's books were in fantastic condition when I got here."

But Ulrich said she can't take sole credit for the award, nor did she want to.

"I'm just the support here," Ulrich said. "When I first came, our financial statements were prepared by the state audit team, who then audited their own work. And that was a problem.

"These ladies help me to make sure that everything is accounted for and in the correct place and they do an outstanding job. I couldn't ask for a better team."

The award is a high distinction, according to Arnold, and rarely, she said, had she seen a system with such a well-managed financial records.

"You should be very proud of the financial team you have here," she told the board. "I've always felt - and I have audited school districts for over 22 years - that if you do not have a sound accounting staff, it makes the operations of the district more difficult. You should be thankful that you have a very good group."

According to Gibbs, the board's financial team is definitely something not taken for granted.

"I want to say a personal thank you to all four of you for the work that you do," Gibbs said. "It's greatly appreciated and I can guarantee you there is no better team in the state of Georgia than these four."