Budgetary Overview 1 Running Head: BUDGETARY OVERVIEW Budgetary Overview Jacklyn Roberts EDA 533 Grand Canyon University April 17, 2008 Budgetary Overview 2 Abstract A newly elected superintendent and school board must be aware of their responsibilities regarding the school budgeting process and practices. Important topics such as generally accepted accounting practices, the budgeting process, and good checks and balances are imperative concepts that must be understood by all school officials. The handling of the budgeting process by superintendents and school board members has a significant impact on the school district in which they coordinate funding. Budgetary Overview 3 Budgetary Overview The purpose for schools in America is to provide children with a quality education that gives them necessary tools to fulfill their dreams while contributing to their country. For the educational system in America to work, schools officials must be able to handle funds appropriately and effectively. Public education is a business that must be operating efficiently or it will fail. Administrators, school board members, commissioners, finance directors, and superintendents must work collaboratively and carefully in order to handle the delicate budgetary processes in which fund their districts. Becoming familiarized with accounting policies would be a top priority for a new superintendent and school board members. The superintendent has full responsibility of the total budget in which he or she delegates responsibilities such as budgeting, fiscal responsibility, and building management to principals and central office personnel in the district (Ubben and Hughes, 1997). Generally accepted accounting practices must be met by the superintendent and school board members. A new superintendent must locate and read the financial accounting handbook which is used by their state and school members. It is the responsibility of the superintendent to publish a summary of the approved budget in the local newspaper and prepare an Expenditure Budget for the school year to be passed by the school board. Although the superintendent and school board of education have ultimate responsibility for receiving, spending and accounting for funds, the business director and principals play a major role in the accounting process (Brimley & Garfield, 2005). Administrators use general principles to ensure the accounting system is adequate and is running smoothly. These principles include: accuracy, completeness and timeliness, Budgetary Overview 4 simplicity, and uniformity (Brimley & Garfield).By following these principles, administrators have a better chance of having effective accounting systems. While administrators take responsibility in the accounting process, it is the superintendent and school board who must ensure adequate record keeping of income and expenditures for the entire school district. It is the school board’s responsibility to meet and ensure the budgetary process is working and vote on another option if it needs improving. As a new superintendent or school board member, it is imperative to understand the function of the budget including terminology and basic concepts. Both a superintendent and a school board member should familiarize themselves with the four elements of budgeting which include planning, receiving funds, spending funds, and evaluating the results. This often means identifying the needs of the school district and then establishing goals and objectives to meet those needs. The next step in the process would be building a program to meet those needs and providing a budget to fund those programs (Brimley & Garfield, 2005). After determining the educational program that will benefit the district, it is the superintendent’s responsibility to give out responsibility to others that will help with the carrying out of the program and will also check for effectiveness. It is also the responsibility of the superintendent to summarize the budget numbers in an informative manner that community members understand to present at the budget hearing. When the budget is adopted formally by the school board, the superintendent is the executive officer in charge of all the authorized programs and must be able to demonstrate that the budget is constructed around the correct objectives (Brimley & Garfield). Specific terminology regarding the budget process that the superintendent and school board Budgetary Overview 5 members should know includes expenditures, receipts, zero-based budgeting, site-based budgeting, strategic planning and system analysis. These terms are important to understand when in charge of the budgeting process. An example of this is the importance of knowing the differences between zero based budgeting and site based budgeting. While zero based budgeting is more of a decision making process by the superintendent, site based budgeting is a collaborative process enabling the superintendent to take the role of a facilitator (Brimley & Garfield, 2005). Balancing and coordinating the funds in a budget is a difficult process that must be overseen by the superintendent. Planning is essential when trying to coordinate the funds. One way to effectively plan to ensure balance and coordination is preparing a budget calendar that explains what actions should be taken each month of the fiscal year. Having an efficient bookkeeper for the school district is essential in balancing and coordinating funds. It is the bookkeeper’s responsibility to keep accurate records and ensure the funds are balanced. Another important aspect of accurately balancing the budget funds is to implement an effective budgeting process. Superintendents must decide whether they are going to regulate incremental processing, zero-based processing, or Planning, Programming, or Budgeting System (PPBS) (Brimley & Garfield, 2005). It is important that superintendents check with administrators to make sure they are effectively keeping a record of incoming and outgoing funds and are following the budget calendar. Close supervision and regular meetings to go over the budgetary process are vital in ensuring funds are balanced and being coordinated effectively. Maintaining good checks and balances is essential to a school districts success. Without good checks and balances the schools would not be able to get the necessary Budgetary Overview 6 funds to improve learning. It is important for superintendents to supervise budgeting processes from each school. Seeing the numbers is vital in knowing exactly what is going on. Accurate record-keeping is essential when trying to maintain checks and balances, as well as having regular meetings with school board members regarding the budget. Setting up a system to ensure good checks and balances is an essential step in the accounting process. Uniformed forms should be provided to each school. Using the same forms will make it easier to see what is going on and lessen confusion. Auditing is an option to ensure that funds are being used in a legal and efficient way. Auditing satisfies state and district requirements, protects school funds, and allows the community to have confidence in the accounting practices of the districts handling of funds (Brimley & Garfield, 2005). State intervention might take place to assess the problems found in the auditing process. In order for a school to function properly and successfully, the superintendent, school board members, and school personnel must make sure that funds are spent wisely and records are kept accurately. In this era of change and increasing fuel and building costs, it is imperative for school districts to have effective accounting practices. Budgetary Overview 7 References Brimley V. & Garfield R. (2008). Financing Education in a Climate of Change. (10th ed.) Boston: Allyn and Bacon. North Carolina Public Schools.(n.d.) Finance and Business. Retrieved April 17, 2008 from http://www.ncpublicschools.org/fbs/ Ubben, G., & Huges, L. (1997). The principal (3rd ed). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.