Colorado's school finance laws are complicated enough to confuse even the most savvy political operatives.
Thanks in part to a series of conflicting laws passed over the course of several decades, the state legislation that steers spending on schools, students and teachers often seems at odds with itself. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights, the Gallagher Amendment, Amendment 23 and the so-called "negative factor" all pull money in different directions, and the final effect can easily be maddening.
Guy Bellville has served as the Cherry Creek School District's Chief Financial Officer since 1991, and he's one of the few experts who can make sense of the whole, confounding system. Indeed, CCSD Superintendent Dr. Harry Bull is quick to point out that Bellville is "one of only a handful of people in Colorado who fully understands Colorado's Public School Finance Act," and Bellville's careful, nuanced and consummate leadership has helped earn the district's Fiscal Services Department an annual stream of awards for excellence and transparency in budget management.
But Bellville is about much more than numbers. As he prepares to retire after more than 25 years with the district, Bellville is eager to emphasize the more unexpected aspects of his personality. There's the side of Bellville that revels in the outdoor culture of his native Alaska, the one that's eager to explore rugged, off-road trails in a jeep and go on a charity mission for his church. There's the devoted husband of 47 years, the proud father of three and grandfather of four.
These components balance the data-based and numbers-driven expertise that have made Bellville such an integral part of the Cherry Creek School District.
"People think of me as the beady-eyed bean counter, they think of attention to detail, a Type-A personality relative to work, index sequential, A to B, a place for everything. That's true in my work environment," Bellville said. "In my personal environment, it's being with my friends and the people that I love. It's a spirit of adventure. I probably fool a lot of people outside of work," he pointed out with a hearty chuckle, "I'm not the stereotypical CFO. I am always just Guy, nothing more, nothing less.
"I just want to be humble, be kind and speak softly," he added in an appropriately understated tone.
During his tenure at Cherry Creek Schools, Bellville has applied his philosophy to many aspects of the district far afield from the Fiscal Services Division. Serving under four CCSD superintendents, Bellville has had a hand in budgeting, accounting, purchasing and warehouse operations. He's supervised transportation services, food services and Information Technology operations, when called upon by the superintendent.
All that work came in addition to his constant contributions to the Fiscal Services Department, work that earned the respect and admiration from colleagues, school professionals, lawmakers and other officials from across the state. He forged a reputation through his unerring dedication to the heart of the school district – the students that report daily to buildings across the district.
The size and scope of that student population has massively increased since Bellville left Anchorage and accepted the job offer from then Superintendent Bob Tschirki in 1991, but his goals have remained consistent. Always an advocate for local control, Bellville has worked to ensure that the Cherry Creek School District had enough resources and autonomy to stay true to its priorities and its values.
"My main objectives have been to have stable and sustainable funding. I always took into account inflationary impacts, so that they were covered and that the district would have the necessary resources for the growth of its student population," Bellville said. "I've watched the district go from 28,000 students to 54,500 students during my career."
Considering Colorado's legislative climate, the work has never been simple. Year after year, Bellville offered CCSD school board members, superintendents and community members critical guidance when it came to navigating the ever-shifting subtleties of school finance in Colorado. His consummate expertise didn't go unnoticed. Thanks to Bellville's consistency and clarity, the district earned the Government Finance Officers Distinguished Budget Presentation Certificate of Achievement for more than 20 years and the Association of School Business Officials Meritorious Budget Certificate of Excellence annually since 1997.
The Cherry Creek School District was also honored by the Association of School Business Officials International as one of only 23 school districts nationwide to receive the Meritorious Budget Certificate of Excellence for at least 15 consecutive years. The award recognizes school entities that demonstrate excellence and transparency in school budget presentation.
For Bellville, all of the honors are simply an indication of an unerring philosophy that's helped CCSD keep up its commitment to excellence.
"The school board and the superintendents have always been very supportive, and our mission has not changed," Bellville said. "That stability has been the key to my longevity here in school finance. It was never the school finance program of the month. It's about long-term, sustainability of excellent programs."
As Bellville plans for the next phase of life, he's confident that commitment will continue. Former PFM Financial Advisors Director, Denver Public Schools CFO and City and County of Denver Treasurer and Revenue Manager David Hart is set to take on the role of CCSD CFO, and Bellville is planning to indulge a different side of his personality, making plans to go snorkeling with whale sharks in Mexico.
Even so, there's plenty he'll miss about the buttoned-down, numbers-driven side of his daily life, from attending graduations every year to witnessing the celebrations at school board meetings.
"I'll miss the sense of my Cherry Creek family," Bellville admitted. "I'm going to miss the sense of being with the individuals who helped build the district and the people who are so committed to providing the best educational opportunities to the students who are our future generation."