Friday, May 13, 2016

School Finance 101: The Ins and Outs of the Budget Process

Welcome to a crash course on school finance, specifically the budgeting process.  School budgets are unique creatures and for many people, even those in education, it can be a very difficult process to understand.  Development of a budget starts for us in October as we start to collect information from our schools and departments. All of this information is analyzed to ensure that the budget is a reflection of the strategic goals of the school division.  In December, the Governor releases his budget which then prompts us to start determining the amount of money we will need from our locality to meet the needs of the school.  However, the General Assembly doesn’t make their final recommendations on the budget until March 16th which can alter the Governor’s budget.  That was the case this year.  These changes required us to review our budget and make revisions to our proposed plan.

On Tuesday night, May 10, the Board of Supervisors met for final approval of the county’s budget.  Prior to Tuesday, the Supervisors held several work sessions to gather information in order to make the most informed decision possible.  They analyzed and researched all department expenditures and requests, asking detailed questions along the way.  Several members contacted me, as well as School Board members, throughout the process in order to have a better understanding of our budget.  Because of the diligence and commitment exhibited by the Supervisors and our Board, we received the majority of the funding that was requested.  The Board of Supervisors prioritized requests from the schools and the Sheriff’s Department, all while maintaining no tax increase to the public.
As a Superintendent and as a taxpayer, I am very appreciative that the process was conducted both professionally and thoroughly. The School Board and the Board of Supervisors, as well as county administration, need to be commended for the tireless effort and responsibility exhibited during this very difficult process.

Our school division will slowly begin implementing elements of the 5 C’s, STEM initiatives, and new Career and Technical Education courses, such as nursing, EMT, and engineering.  We will be painting several buildings this summer, while putting a schedule in place for painting the remaining schools by doing a few each year.  We will be providing new learning spaces for children and replacing furniture in 4th grade this year with plans to address other grades annually.  We will have a strong maintenance program and a rotational lease to buy and maintain buses for the future.  The common theme here is “schedule”.  IWCS did not have a formal plan for addressing these needs and, consequently, they were often neglected, especially during tight budget times.  Fortunately, the timetable we have put in place will ensure these needs aren’t overlooked in future years.

We started the budgeting process in October.  It’s now May and we have an approved budget for next year.  There was a lot of work, both behind the scenes and in public, to get us to this point. I would like to extend a big Thank You to all the individuals involved in this process, including parents, community, business leaders, and my staff. 

I hope this has given you some insight into what it takes to eventually have an approved budget.  The time and attention we put into the process allows us to present a budget that accurately reflects the needs of the division.  We owe that to our students and to all the citizens of this county.