After working with school districts across the United States, we’ve learned a lot about the habits needed to set your school or department up for a successful year.
Managing your department or school’s budget is like developing good financial hygiene; it takes regular, consistent habits in order to yield better long-term results.
We know that this is easier said than done, so to provide guid ance to those leaders who want to feel in control of their spending— and isn’t that all of you? — we created this checklist to help you cover your bases. Select this link to download a PDF version of this checklist.
Pro Tip: Print the checklist and jot down any numbers and responses to questions. We know how much principals love to print - you inspired the creation of the Print feature in Balance!
Assess Your Account Health
Assessing your spending last year is key to starting out the new year with an analytical lens. These early weeks of school are a great time to take stock of how you’re planning to spend those dollars to start the year off right.
Try These Steps!
Review last year’s ending balances
- Did you run out of funds in one area last year, or leave money unspent in another? Note any over- and under-spending to get ahead of those categories this year.
Collaborate with your Central Office
- Check in with your finance office to identify any major budget changes and work with them to make any budget amendments, if necessary.
Study this year’s budget
- Where are most of your funds going? How much is related to personnel v. non-personnel expenses?
Budget With the End in Mind
Now that you have assessed the health of your accounts, it is time to revisit your plan to ensure your budget aligns with your spending goals for the year. You should think of your budget as a living, breathing tool that requires consistent updates as your circumstances change throughout the year.
Reflect on Program or School Goals
- Has your district developed a strategic plan or achievement-based goals for the next year or next few years? Is your spending and encumbrances aligned to those goals?
Inventory of Staff and Supplies
- Do you have the right staffing in place as enrollment numbers solidify? Do you need more supplies?
Expect the Unexpected
- Do you have an emergency fund?
Check Things Off
After assessing your account health and reviewing your current budget, it’s time to take action.
Make Early Purchases
- It’s better to plan ahead of time to ensure this year’s dollars benefit this year’s students. Early planning also allows you to compare prices and find the best deal to stretch your budget dollars a little further.
- Finalize additional hires so the right people are in place at the start of the year.
Identify Spending Deadlines
- Take note of all spending deadlines and proactively draw on those funds so all available money is spent in the best way possible for your students.
Managing your budget doesn’t have to feel like an insurmountable task. You can start by tackling one item on our checklist everyday till you’re caught up. It will take some time, but within a month, your efforts will certainly pay off.