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Trick or Treat? What's Lurking in Your School Finances?

We’ve talked with hundreds of superintendents, Chief Financial Officers, and budget managers from around the country. Below are the top three concerns we hear most often, and the actions we suggest for conquering your finance fears.

Fear

How am I EVER going to understand all the complexities of my district’s spending patterns? This is going to take such a long time!

Action

Don’t be afraid to start small. Reviewing your financial situation under a more strategic light, doesn’t mean having to review every single thing that involves money at your district. Make a list of your key questions or improvement goals, and then pick one that you can tackle now. (Need help starting on that list? Dr. Terry Grier, former Superintendent of Houston ISD, recently shared his Top 10 list with us.)


Fear

If I spend more time on financial review, I’ll have to sacrifice the time I spend on everything else.

Action

Spend more time on your financial improvement processes. When you make the most out of your staff’s time and capacity, you’re ultimately helping your district run more efficiently. This increased efficiency will free up staff time and resources that can be used elsewhere. For example, one of our district partners used to spend hours pulling their data from their ERP system and compiling reports. After investing some of their time and effort to implement our Balance product, this partner can now accomplish these tasks in a fraction of the time, which has freed up valuable hours they can use to work collaboratively with their schools.

Fear

I’m afraid that I will find something so bad that it will make me regret taking a closer look at my financial data or processes.

Action

Fear of the unknown is perhaps the biggest reason districts are reluctant to look under their financial hood. You can’t solve the problems you don’t know exist. By taking the initiative to unravel the tangled web of your district’s financial processes, you can discover valuable information that actually improves your decision-making.


You might find a skeleton in your financial closet, but finding that information on your own rather than through a public audit or the front page of the local paper puts you in the driver’s seat. You now have the opportunity to step up and say that you’ve found this issue, your staff is working to resolve it, and state how you’ll go above and beyond to make amends.

Who’s the hero? You are.

At the other end of the spectrum, we’ve heard lots of good news from these deep dives. Several of our district partners have found unspent grant and program monies that they didn’t know they had. Our partner, Dr. Lewis Ferebee from Indianapolis Public Schools, discovered that a reported deficit was inaccurate and that the district actually had a budget surplus. Talk about putting the “Super” in Superintendent!

Trick or treat? Are you ready to investigate what’s hiding in your finances?

October 26, 2016