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Tracking leases across Texas A&M's 24 campuses to maintain GASB-87 compliance

Texas A&M

College Station, TX

As a large university, Texas A&M needed to consolidate the leases across its 24 campuses and facilities to remain compliant with new lease accounting standards under GASB-87. By establishing new processes to track leases, the university is prepared to complete future audits with confidence.

Topics Covered

Transparency
Asset Management
Process Improvement

Cost

Initial: Zero Upfront Cost

Funding

General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Project Status

Operational since 2020

Gov Champion

Controller

Problem Addressed

In 2017, the accounting standards boards decided that the way the public sector accounts for leases needed to be changed in order to show the value and revenue generated by an asset on the governmental funds balance sheet, prescribed by GASB-87.

Local governments and public institutions, like Texas A&M, had to implement these changes by June 2021. It is critical for institutions to be compliant because an unfavorable audit rating can lead to a reduction in their bond rating and have larger downstream consequences.

The Texas A&M system has over 24 campuses, and prior to GASB-87, leases were managed at the department level, independently of one another. To comply with GASB-87, lease oversight was instead needed at the institutional level, requiring the parent campus to reach out to every department at each campus to understand what was being leased and what was not. In many cases, departments were unaware that items were considered 'leased', through embedded leases. For example, equipment brought in by janitorial services to clean facilities is technically being leased by the campus.

After changing their materiality threshold, the system was left with 69 leases to account for. Next, they adopted a leasing software to better track university lease obligations, but for the software to do its job, they had to gather all critical information and enter it into the platform. To enter one lease took staff up to 5 hours, taking up much more time than staff originally anticipated.

Solutions Used

After realizing that data entry would take longer than anticipated, the Texas A&M system sought external assistance from Grant Thornton to audit their leases and train their teams on lease processes to prepare them for future audits.

Through the audit, 20% of Texas A&M's leases were extracted completely by Grant Thornton. These leases are higher value, representing around 70% of all lease value. Ensuring that lease information is extracted properly is critical, because the new leasing software is only as useful as the data it holds. This oversight ensured that the system did not miss any embedded leases and accurately captured anything above the materiality threshold. It additionally offered greater visibility on what leases were used across multiple campuses from the same institution. Texas A&M could then consolidate these leases, allowing the system to save money by bundling deals.

Because only 20% of the leases were done externally, Texas A&M's staff extracted information from the remaining leases. As a result, they now have processes in place that have fully prepared them to maintain GASB-87 compliance into the future.

Outcomes

1

With staff now trained on properly undertaking lease processes, there are clear steps in place to maintain future GASB-87 compliance

2

With greater visibility into total lease obligations, Texas A&M can consolidate leases for the whole system instead of for each campus leading to better communication system-wide

3

System employees saved time by outsourcing 20% of lease extraction, while still gaining experience necessary to complete the whole process in-house in the future

4

If auditors come looking for completion, system employees can easily share the necessary documentation

Lessons Learned

1

Recording information on all previous and future leases is a time-consuming project. Underestimating the project timeline can be costly, so getting a head start on the transition is key.

Who Should Consider

Local government offices looking to set proper materiality thresholds, catch all embedded leases, and create error-proof lease review services to maintain GASB-87 compliance.

Last Updated

Mar 30th, 2022

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