Getting Your Schools Through Tough Budget Times

By Naomi Dillon

Tighten, trim, and cut out the fat. No, we’re not talking about that New Year’s resolution you made to lose weight, but one of the most significant and highly charged duties of district leadership: budgeting.

To its list of descriptors, add arduous, all-consuming, and difficult because creating a balanced and adequate budget is anything but easy. And it doesn’t look to get any easier any time soon.

The federal government hasn’t used the word recession yet, but there’s no doubt we’re in a historic economic downturn. The red-hot housing market has slowed and, in some areas, taken a nosedive. Food prices are going up. Gas prices continue to climb. People are defaulting on mortgages and car loans.

“Depending on the region, [economic] cycles are inevitable,” says Ronald Skinner, assistant executive director of the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO). “Whether you are in Montana or Idaho, where your economy is more dependent on natural resources, or you’re in Hawaii or Florida, where you depend on tourism, at some point there’s a cycle.”

Unfortunately, the economic downturn seems to be hitting everywhere lately. In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed 10 percent across-the-board cuts to close a $14.5 billion deficit, driven largely by the state’s housing crisis. School districts across California are struggling to make up the shortfall. 

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