Jason Helsen, SFO
Auditors working in school districts sometimes transition into school business positions, as was the case for Jason Helsen, who began interning with an audit firm during his senior year of college. “I got to work on several school audits, and I enjoyed the work and the people from the very beginning,” he says.
After a few years as an auditor, Jason went to work for one of his clients, Grandville Public Schools in Grandville, Michigan, more than a decade ago. During his four years there as an accounting supervisor, he soaked up a lot about school business. He eventually took a consolidated position as finance director for both Reeths-Puffer Schools and Whitehall District Schools in Muskegon and Whitehall, Michigan, respectively, splitting his time between them for three years. For the past four years, he has been employed full-time at Reeths-Puffer.
Dating back to the late 19th century, this suburban school district, affectionately known to locals as “Rocket City,” stretches across approximately 77 square miles, serving about 3,800 students on nine campuses.
Since Jason joined ASBO, Reeths-Puffer Schools produced a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the first time, and it has earned the Certificate of Excellence (COE) three years in a row. “This has been a tremendous benefit for the district in terms of quality and transparency of information,” Jason says. “The administration and board of education see this accomplishment as a ‘gold star’ that we're doing the right things in the area of financial reporting, and it’s consistent with our district strategic plan.”
“I'm proud of what we've accomplished over the years,” he adds. “We have a balanced budget and are projecting stability for the first time in my seven years here. Our student population has been solid, and we didn't have to make big cuts in the 2017–2018 budget. This helps ensure that we’re providing high-quality services for students, which is the most important thing.”
Jason stays busy at home as well. Two years ago, the Helsen family, which includes his wife Maria and their three young children, Vivian, Danny, and Andrew, moved into a house very close to Lake Michigan. “The house is a fixer-upper, but when we need a break from home improvement projects, the beach provides a great distraction!” he says.