School Finance is one of those topics that rarely receive any recognition. For the educator and parent alike the topic can seem daunting. Who likes to discuss bond refinancing, fund accounting, tax levy caps or excess surplus? For citizens not practicing in the field, you may say why bother? Well, deep down you know how important the school budget is. Until recent legislation was passed, many districts had their school budgets voted on during the election process. This whole process pitted parents, who were pro-budget, against senior citizens who led an anti-tax revolt. How many parents and seniors actually knew what was in the budget, before taking such tough positions? Some districts still vote on their budgets, while others gladly moved the school election to November where it is no longer voted upon.
School Finance and School Budgeting are critical to the overall success of the academic program. In fact, I would argue that it’s the most critical piece. How can you fund quality academic programs, if you do not have the revenue to support them? How can you have the revenue to support the academics, if you are overspending in key areas? The truth is you can’t. This fact became even more apparent state aid reductions and government imposed property tax caps. The simple truth is, despite what your spending obligations are, school districts are limited in how much revenue they can raise. The fact is, similar to your household, expenses can go up each year and revenue does not keep pace.
So what is the purpose of a school finance blog for average citizens? Thankfully it is not necessary to know fund accounting or excess surplus. The revenue comes from local property taxes and State Government. It is also critical to look at expenses as well. Approximately 80% comes from employee salaries and benefits. So, we need to look creatively at reducing expenses, unrelated to education, and to increase revenue, correct? Can we use technology to deliver a far superior education at a much lower cost?
Yes, we can and that is where we start the process and where you can ask those questions to your local board and superintendent.