In a recent article released by Education Week, there is a new push for districts to drop the year-to-year budget cycles and follow a budgeting process that requires long-term planning guided by efforts to improve student achievement. What started out as a six district pilot program has now expanded to over twenty districts implementing the principles instituted by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA).
“Probably the vast majority of districts don’t have that kind of regular dialogue that’s really needed in order to budget properly, [and] also budget effectively, especially given that most districts across the country are operating under continued pressures in terms of their finances,” said Matt Bubness, a manager at GFOA and a former operations director for the Chicago Public Schools.
GFOA’s best practices for budgeting emphasize planning and preparation as well as encourage community engagement. The creation of multi-year financial plans forces districts to rethink and realign.
Of course, the annual budgeting method is less controversial when year after year, districts do the same thing (along with a few tweaks) and their budget is accepted and approved because it worked before.
The multi-year budgeting approach requires districts to define their priorities and allocate funds accordingly. It allows districts to redirect funds from one area to another based on long-term goals and to allocate funds for successive budget years to support initiatives.
Susan Moxley, Lake County’s superintendent, called this way of doing business a “real paradigm shift.” The long-term planning has made it easier to deal with annual budget adjustments, she said. “It brought to light the importance of our resources and how precious they are and that they all need to be very strategically and deliberately focused on those outcomes,” Ms. Moxley said.
Every expense should be evaluated for its return on investment, considering not only initial cost and expenses during the life of the purchase, but also the savings that may have been realized from implementation. The benefit, is increased transparency and a consciousness about how money is spent and where dollars are allocated.
Can your district benefit from long-term budget planning? For more information visit the Smarter School Spending for Student Success website.