We asked our chief expert, Raj Thakkar: Where should school leaders focus their attention during the first quarter?
The first quarter of every year is the time for budgeting.
Spend January in reflection reviewing and evaluating the overall program and staffing plan with the goal of answering the following questions:
Spend February in projection, estimation and decision. Building off of your reflection, make preliminary decisions for 2016-17 with the input of key staff and the board, when necessary, to build out the first draft of the budget. We recommend matching decisions to actions, including inviting selected staff to return and beginning recruitment for expected vacancies. At the same time, build out the budget by filling in numbers for predictable revenues and expenses such as facility payments and per-pupil revenue. Create a "ceiling" and "floor" for numbers of students per grade level that results in a balanced budget, knowing several iterations will occur. Reach out to vendors and even other schools to gather quotes and conduct research to make educated estimates for all unknowns. Don’t forget to build in a conservative cushion should actual expenses prove to be higher.
- Which staff members will be invited back for 2016-17?
- Which positions will need to be filled?
- Which new vacancies will be created due to planned growth?
- Which positions, if any, will be eliminated?
- How effective were this year’s programs?
- Example: Did students enrolled in the afterschool/Saturday/Summer program improve at the levels expected? Should this program be maintained, scaled back, or expanded? How will this affect the 2016-17 budget?
Spend March/April second guessing all assumptions. Circulate the draft budget among key staff, get their feedback and test whether assumptions match their planned needs. Have discussions to gain a deeper understanding of what variables could impact the numbers and then make updates accordingly. Once you have fully tested the draft, it’s now ready for review and approval by the finance committee and board in May/June.
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We will publish the answer to one question each quarter.