School Spending Archive 2006
A Money Management Primer
Today’s school administrators must use their resources effectively. Time, qualified personnel, and materials are all in short supply. But perhaps the most critical—and scarce—resource is money. How can you best stretch your dollars and make them last as long as possible? All investment has some risk, but these tips can help your district make the most of scant resources.
State funding is flat, federal money is falling, and local governments are flailing as they struggle to deal with skyrocketing costs for pensions and health care. Add to that a slower-than-expected recovery from the post-9/11 downturn, escalating fuel costs, and an aging workforce that is living longer in retirement, and you have a growing percentage of fixed costs that are being used to pay for resources outside the classroom. Soaring costs for health care and pension benefits threaten your district’s bottom line.
Lessons from a Scandal
Public schools constitute one of America’s largest industries, with nearly 15,000 districts handling more than 47 million students and annual budgets that total in the hundreds of billions of dollars. School board members must display the highest level of honor and integrity when using this money to educate students served within their communities. As the district's watchdogs, they have one of the most important jobs in the community.
How can school leaders prevent fraud or carelessness in the finance office? The attitude at the top is critical. The school board must have policies and procedures in place that send a clear message to all employees that honesty and integrity are essential. Just as important, guidelines need to be in place for addressing noncompliance.
A budget should be simple: You take your available revenue and make your expenditures match. But as anyone who has ever operated on a budget knows, it's often anything but simple. And that is especially true in public education. Here is how to get a head start on next year’s budget.
A few years ago, a local taxpayers’ group derailed a reasonable budget proposal by aggressively taking its case to the public and the media. The district sat passively on the sidelines and found itself on the wrong side of public opinion. Misinformation becomes the truth when no one responds directly to it. Be proactive by getting the district’s message out first and frequently. Communicating your budget to the public is key to increasing support for it.