Budget Development by Joseph Tramontana
The purpose of budget development is a method of earmarking resources in order to attain strategic goals. Districts should engage in budget development in order to reach their goals, control spending, and monitor cash flow. The obstacles to all of this is that it is hard to map out the future with perfect accuracy. Changing revenues and unpredictable expenses make budget development more complex and intricate. It is critical to link the allocation of expenses to district goals. How do these expenditures help with improving test scores? How will these expenditures improve our facilities or technology programs? The expense side of the budget expresses how resources will be allocated and should measure actual progress. If your goal is to improve test scores and you earmark money toward this goal it is important to measure progress. The questions that need to be asked is what is working and what is failing. The budget development process is always more effective when linked to overall strategy. This gives directors and principals a clear understanding of strategic goals and how the money is being spent. This understanding leads to greater support for goals, better coordination of strategies and ultimately stronger district performance. Districts that apply best practices realize that communication among the staff, budget committee and board members play and critical role. District leadership must take the lead in developing and communicating the district’s strategic goals and how the budget will finance them. In order to develop those goals, district leadership needs input from directors, principals, board members, teaching staff and the public. Districts that establish effective channels for communication find it easier to set challenging and achievable strategic goals.
Setting goals before the budget process even begins makes it easier for budget development. Budgets which are created to support strategic goals need fewer revisions. Budget development then becomes not only faster and less costly but also far less frustrating. All districts realize that competition for resources is inevitable. Every department and division needs funding for both capital and operating expenses and most times in excess of what is actually available. This makes it immensely important for school districts to design policies and procedures in order to allocate resources in order to support district goals and needs.