Terry Stone becomes the first finance officer from a school district to serve as president of the Government Finance Officers Association on Tuesday.
Stone, 53, is assistant superintendent for business and operations with Hanover County Public Schools in the northern suburbs of Richmond, Va.
GFOA had a previous president from the higher education sector, but Stone is the first from the K through 12 sphere.
Only about 8.5% of GFOA’s individual members and 9% of its organizational members are from school districts.
One of Stone’s goals as GFOA president for 2019-2020 will be to increase the groups’ membership among the nation’s school districts. Along with that, she wants to increase membership in GFOA’s Alliance for Excellence in School Budgeting, which currently has only about 100 members.
Stone’s school district is a member of that alliance which she said focuses on a “process-oriented approach” to budgeting that encourages collaboration between the district’s finance department and academic leaders.
“It has really been incredible,” she said, describing her own involvement in Hanover County. “We’re all starting to speak the other’s language.”
Stone also wants to continue the work begun over the last year to encourage college students to consider a career in public finance. GFOA’s first college chapter had its initial meeting recently at Virginia Tech.
“We’re starting first with that university, but I think it’s something that we can grow,” she said. “I think it’s important because we’re not necessarily the first choice for students who are leaving college, so if we make some focus as an organization we can make some progress there. Having that exposure, they may start to look at us in a different light. We have an impact. Our decisions really affect the everyday lives of our citizens and that can be pretty exciting for students once they make that correlation.”
In January GFOA officials who met in Washington, D.C. were asked to visit their members of Congress to help lobby on the organization’s top priorities, which include keeping the tax exemption for municipal bonds, restoring advance refundings and enacting new infrastructure legislation.
Stone enthusiastically supports that all-hands-on-deck approach to lobbying. “Using our members to advocate is more compelling than just having staff do it, so it’s positive and something we need to continue,” she said.
Stone has been a GFOA member for 20 years. She has served on GFOA’s Committee on Retirement and Benefits Administration (2015–2018) and Committee on Treasury and Investment Management (2005–2013; chair, 2011–2013); GFOA’s Executive Board (2015–2018); and GFOA’s Nominating Committee (2013–2014).
Stone has a bachelor’s degree in accounting for Virginia Commonwealth University and is a certified public accountant.
She worked for 20 years for Hanover County government before switching over the schools.
She’s also worked for other school districts, serving as chief financial officer for Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools and as assistant superintendent of finance and administration for the neighboring Henrico County Public Schools.
And she has held public office. She served eight years on the rural King William County School Board and four years on that county’s board of supervisors.
Her current school district, located in a suburban county just north of Richmond, operates 25 schools with 18,000 students.
The Hanover County School District is typical of other school districts in Virginia in that 40% of the buildings are 40 years old or older, Stone said. About 16% of the schools in Hanover County also are over 80 years old.
“Over the last year we have developed a 10-year capital improvement plan to replace or significantly renovate those 80 year old schools over a seven year period,” Stone said. “In the state of Virginia school boards do not have taxing authority so we do rely upon our local governments to work with us. And so we’ve worked with Hanover County to develop a plan to replace those 80 year old schools realizing that’s just the beginning. We’ll have to continue to move forward and then address the next oldest. And so, Hanover County will likely rely on municipal bonds to do that.”
In Washington, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other lawmakers have said they want any infrastructure legislation that Congress considers to include new funding for school construction and renovation.