December 6, 2016

Uniform Chart of Accounts Q&A

What is the uniform chart of accounts (UCOA)?

Connecticut’s Uniform Chart of Accounts (UCOA) is a benchmarking system that allows for the comparison of municipal and educational revenue and expenditures across towns and school districts.  It is based on a uniform system for reporting town and school district financial information.  Towns and school districts are not required to replace their current accounting systems with the UCOA; rather, they report their financial data in accordance with UCOA requirements.

Where did the UCOA originate?

The UCOA was first proposed by the Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement, a commission of business executives established by an executive order from then Governor Rell to study ways to address the achievement gap in Connecticut.  The commission issued its report in the fall of 2010 and one of its recommendations was to establish a chart of accounts (see pages 21-22).  (The concept was used in Rhode Island when it reformed its school finance system.)

In 2011, the legislature authorized $6 million in bonds to the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) to develop a state and local benchmarking system.  In 2012, it required the State Department of Education (SDE) to (1) make a uniform chart of accounts for school districts available on its website and (2) submit it to the Education and Appropriations committees by July 1, 2013. It required each board of education, regional education service center, and state charter school to start filing annual financial reports using the chart starting July 1, 2014 (PA 12-116, §§ 15 & 16).

In 2013, the legislature expanded the UCOA project to include all municipal revenue and expenditures, not just education, and designated funding for grants to towns and school districts to help them implement the project.  It required the OPM secretary, in consultation with SDE, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, and Council of Small Towns, to develop and implement, by July 1, 2014, a uniform system of accounting for municipal revenue and expenditures, including board of education and grant agency expenditures and revenue. It required the system to include a UCOA for municipalities that lists (1) amounts and sources of revenue and (2) cash and real or personal property donations of $500 or more. It required (1) OPM to make the chart available on its website and (2) by June 30, 2015, municipalities to implement the accounting system and use it to file any annual reports the OPM secretary may require (PA 13-247, § 257).  That same year, the legislature designated up to $450,000 for FY 14 for grants to towns and school districts to help pay for the new system (PA 13-247, §§ 87 & 328).  OPM set a December 31, 2014 deadline for the grant applications.

What is the UCOA’s status?

OPM contracted with Blum Shapiro to implement the benchmarking and UCOA projects.  They provided an update on the project to the MORE Commission in December 2015.  The presentation indicates that as of December 2015, the benchmarking database included municipal-level data for 147 of 169 municipalities.  It also indicates that the education-level data will be validated and entered into the database in 2016.

Where can town officials go to learn more about the UCOA?

Here are several resources on the UCOA that town officials may find helpful: