Financial Planning/farr_budget.rtf Page 1 Q310-32 Fall 2001 Jennifer Farr One thing is certain regarding budget allocation for technology—there are many factors to consider. Schools cannot make the mistake of viewing technology as a “one-shot” deal---purchasing the actual equipment is a mere fragment of the budget consideration. The “Total Cost of Ownership” (TCO) -- whether schools lease or own the technology equipment—includes all the costs related to using and sustaining networked computers. Associated expenses include retrofitting (the actual cost of upgrading electricity, air conditioning/heating, security systems, and in older buildings--asbestos/lead removal), professional development (staff training, materials, substitute costs, stipends), software, support (personnel that can help with software and hardware problems/glitches), replacement costs, and connectivity. In looking over the sample technology school budget there were several questions left unanswered. Consider the hardware section for example. How many computers were included as part of the budget? Did the hardware budget include peripherals? Were computers leased or purchased? Were there computers already present in the district in addition to the hardware costs indicated in the budget? If the budget is based on all new computers than one can estimate one computer has been allocated for every 8 or 9 students, which is not a bad ratio, but this figure was estimated without figuring any teachers into the equation so the ratio of computers to students is probably much lower. Of course all this is conjecture, because we really don’t have hardware history/data for the district. If we use the Integrated Technology Group estimate that the total cost of a technology program will run above $500 per student per year for the first year and we assume this budget is based on the first three introductory years of technology in the district, than we can gauge that the district is falling short of that estimate since the approximate expenditure per student is closer to $425 per student. The $425 expenditure would indicate that the Lab Model cited in the McKinsey & Company 1995 study would work best for this district (though one could argue it might not be the best model for technology integration/student use). Of course there was lot of disparity when you look at the various studies that were used in the Taking TCO to the Classroom article too since costs per student depended varied factors. For example the state of New Jersey estimated a cost of $417 to $550 per student for technology and the Department of Education in California estimated $496 per year. MIT projected a per-pupil cost of $212 to $501 depending on the complexity of the network. This brings the sample budget under increased scrutiny as well and raises more questions. For example, does the budget include retrofitting and if so is that categorized as Maintenance? What falls under the category of Miscellaneous? Does the professional development category of the budget include the cost of a technology specialist or would a technology specialist be included in another part of the overall district budget (teacher contract, maybe)? Financial Planning/farr_budget.rtf Page 2 Q310-32 Fall 2001 Jennifer Farr The sample budget did indicate some expected trends (presuming the budget represents the first three years technology is being introduced in the budget---by the way this doesn’t seem too likely given the years, but then we also do not know whether this budget is in a rural district or urban district---demographics could come into play). The TCO article made the point that the largest share of the technology budget is normally devoted to hardware in the form of networks and new computers and then shifts to staff development. The sample budget showed an initially higher percentage of cost was allocated to hardware and professional expenditure did increase in the third year of the budget. Some other observations regarding the budget also arose. For example the cost of A+ (training?) equaled the district funds for hardware, software, maintenance, professional development, and miscellaneous combined. That seems unrealistic. Two technicians could have been hired for that cost and most technicians already have their A+ training (at least in our area). Could the A+ training have been part of an employee incentive program? For example, if a teacher or teachers had A+ training and agreed to stay with the district for a pre-determined length of time the expertise would remain in the district. The school would have the added benefit of offering A+ training to students down the road if teaching staff had the A+ training. Would leased equipment save the district money in maintenance costs? That could depend on the quality of the maintenance contract. I know that when our school leased equipment it sometimes took weeks to get the equipment repaired which added up to a the hidden cost involved in having equipment sitting around (student productivity was lost). Charting the budget made the low allocations for general supplies, travel, and software/repair painfully obvious. How on earth can a technology supply budget function at such a low rate? Five hundred dollars for general supplies seems an impossibly unrealistic figure, unless supplies like print cartridges, paper, etc. are included somewhere else in the general budget. A software budget of approximately 3% percent also seemed very low, even if the computers came preloaded with software (did they?). This sample budget did not appear to include retrofitting expenditures---were those buried somewhere else in the general district budget? Perhaps they were included in a building project (one can only hope). In our area technology received a tremendous boost when New York State offered refurbishing/renovation incentives – infrastructure costs, heating, air conditioning and those types of expenses were included in the cost of the renovation projects saving districts huge chunks of money. Technology in the schools that have been remodeled hit an all time high…a very good thing (in my opinion).
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