Home-Grown Education Foundations Can Help With School Finances
Boards must work closely with foundation organizers to fill in district funding gaps
Sharing a Business System Saves Time and Money for Schools
Five Wisconsin school districts develop a planning system to streamlines business practices.
Checking for a Checkered Past
To screen out high-risk candidates, your personnel department should implement procedures that go beyond looking at criminal records.
Outsourcing Survival Tips
Going outside can control costs and improve services, but advance planning and common sense are critical to success
Winning School Finance Elections
The old tried-and-true strategies aren't working like they once did, but you can sway skittish voters with sound strategy and creative engagement
The Good 'Green'
With strong conservation and sustainability policies you can save the planet and save money at the same time
Where the Money Is
Without strong internal controls in place, your school district is vulnerable to fraud. How can you ensure that your district does not become a white-collar crime scene?
When new board members take office, consider giving them a 'Finance 101' review of key areas that will require both patience and attention.
The New Fundraising
For years, parent-teacher organizations and booster clubs have raised money for the “extras”—special equipment and learning opportunities such as field trips and band uniforms. But as districts are forced to pinch pennies, fundraising has taken on new meaning. Today, a large number of school districts have formed foundations to raise money—sometimes so successfully that the proceeds are used to pay teacher salaries.
A Foundation of Funding
From mini-grants to multi-million-dollar gifts, private investment in public schools is increasing. Public school foundations are leading the charge, earning anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $15 million or more each year. These foundations are also getting more strategic. More are targeting individual donors, and getting better results.
Protecting Your Assets
The reorganization meeting agenda is a balance of recurring tasks and new challenges. For many boards, this process becomes routine and rarely changes in format. Boards must resist the tendency to blindly follow the 'annual reorganization agenda'. The reorganization meeting is when important financial decisions are made, such as which banks or investment vehicles the district will use to generate interest income.
Oversight, Not Out of Mind
Oversight, the monitoring and evaluation of the administration, is an activity essential to the security of every district. Board members are charged with developing policies that provide direction for the administrators, teachers, and support staff. For board members, passing the budget is not enough. You must keep tabs on spending, too, without managing to micromanage.
Rolling the Dice
On March 30, 2006, North Carolina rolled the dice and officially got into the gambling business with a long-awaited and highly controversial state lottery to fund schools. Results have been less than spectacular; revenues for the first year were $75 million less than originally expected. Lotteries may seem like the shortest route to instant cash for schools, but they're proving to be a high-risk gamble.
A Balancing Act
Corporate advertising is part of daily school life in more than 80 percent of the nation’s public elementary, middle, and high schools, according to a recent study. Advertising is not going away anytime soon. The question for school leaders is: How can schools find the right balance between corporate support and commercial infringement?
The End at the Beginning
Beyond the emotional and educational challenges triggered by administrative changes, boards must be alert to the potential financial dilemmas related to exit payments—the final salary and benefit payments due to administrators. These remunerations may cause painful consequences for the district. One infamous example of regrettable consequences occurred in 1992, when a superintendent in New York State retired with a pension, unused sick days, and vacation benefits totaling more than $1 million. When the local newspapers published this information, the story became a public relations nightmare.
Managing Your Money
Just about anything can throw a district's budget off. Too many kids. Too few kids. Natural disaster. Human error. Old buildings. New mandates. About the only constant in the business of educating the next generation is that the stakes will get higher. To squeeze more out of less, districts are relying on creativity and outside-the-box thinking to keep budgets balanced.
Fixed Assets: Are Yours Broken?
Could we be missing something? As school board members pursuing our primary educational mission, it is easy to lose sight of the tangible property, or fixed assets, that we safeguard on behalf of our constituents. In the wake of corporate scandals and federal legislation, regulatory agencies now hold districts to a higher standard. Do you have control over your tangible property?
Using Savvy Could Mean Savings
How can you keep technology current when you operate on a shoestring budget? Before embarking on ambitious tech projects, it’s important to take an inventory of your assets, review spending, and evaluate your personnel and processes. The exercise helps determine the district’s needs, what’s working and what’s not, and potential areas for cost cutting—all of which aids in formulating a comprehensive road map and strategy. All of your decisions flow from this initial assessment.