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

While you're digging up last year's costume from the back of your closet, we thought we'd do some digging of our own. Last year, we dispelled the top three fears we heard from superintendents, chief financial officers, and budget managers from around the country. In case you missed it, read our suggestions on finally conquering your finance fears.

Fear

How am I EVER going to understand all the complexities of my district’s spending patterns? I just don’t have the time!

Action

Start small. Reviewing your financial situation in a more strategic light doesn’t mean having to review every single thing that involves money at your district.

Make a list of your fundamental questions or improvement goals, and then pick one that you can tackle now.

(Need help starting that list? Read Dr. Terry Grier’s, former Superintendent of Houston ISD, Top 10 Things Superintendents Need to Know)


Fear

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

Action

Eliminate the waste. Identifying and removing the waste from your financial management process will maximize your staff’s time and capacity, helping your district run more efficiently.

Pinpoint the processes with unnecessary steps or convoluted elements that bottleneck productivity, and work to improve them.

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, they now accomplish these tasks in a fraction of the time, freeing up valuable hours 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

Do it anyway. Fear of the unknown is perhaps the biggest reason districts are reluctant to look under their financial hood.

What you don’t know can hurt you.

Take the initiative to unravel the tangled web of your district’s financial processes, and you may discover valuable information that improves your decision-making.

Even if you happen to find a skeleton or two, it’s better to find out on your own, than through a public audit. Proactively reviewing your financial accounts, identifying any issues, and taking corrective action can only help your district thrive.


Who’s the hero? You are.

At the other end of the spectrum, we’ve heard lots of good news from districts who brave these deep dives into their financial accounts. 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 had a budget surplus. Talk about putting the “Super” in Superintendent!

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