Recently, seven SunGard K-12 Education customers were recognized for the 15th consecutive year with the prestigious ASBO Meritorious Budget Award. The districts are among a select group of 25 that continue to consistently demonstrate excellence in school budgets and that are setting a high standard for transparent budget development.
The districts that use one of SunGard K-12 Education’s financial and human resources management solutions include:
Alief ISD, Texas
Bucks County Intermediate Unit 22, Pennsylvania
Farmington Public School District, Michigan
Olathe Unified School District, Kansas
Salt Lake City School District, Utah
Schaumburg Community School District 54, Illinois
South Lyon Community Schools, Michigan
Recently two of these districts--Alief Independent School District and South Lyon Community Schools--shared some of their best practices for budget development. And both emphasize that while numbers are the focus of the annual budget process, it’s the words, both spoken and written, that make the difference.
For Alief ISD, Texas, the budget process is an open, collaborative process that begins in January with the presentation to the board of the district’s Long Range Plan. The plan’s enrollment projections form the basis for significant budgetary decisions. Once the Long-Range Plan is approved, the board then begins discussions concerning budget strategies and priorities and establishes the budget calendar.
While the payroll budget process is centralized, the non-payroll related budget allocations are decentralized. Site-based decision-making teams, working under the direction of each campus principal, contribute extensively to campus budget decisions. Budgets for non-campus units are developed by department heads and reviewed by the Budget Committee, which is comprised of the superintendent, two deputy superintendents, and the assistant superintendent for finance.
Grace Chang, controller for Alief ISD, says communication is key to the district’s success. “One technique to make our budget process transparent is frequent communication with board members, community, budget managers, and staff via meetings, the website, emails, etc.,” she says.
To improve the transparency of its budget process, James Graham, assistant superintendent of business/finance, says South Lyon Community Schools focuses a great deal of effort on preparing the executive summary of the budget report. “We have worked very hard on updating the executive summary of our budget. This is important, since most people may not read much beyond this,” he explains. “We believe the executive summary tells the story so that our stakeholders understand where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.”
To learn more best practices in budget development, consider applying for the Meritorious Budget Award (MBA) or the Pathway to the MBA, an introductory program for first- and second-time applicants. Applying for these programs not only improves your budget, but it also helps you gain credibility for your district’s fiscal responsibility. More information can be found at THIS LINK.