School Districts and their budget decisions
Budget decisions for our schools and the Board of Education who makes the decisions are harder today than ever before. The financial constraints schools districts are facing are a result of individuals being out of work which results in fewer taxes for state and local governments to distribute. While this is one of the critical areas affecting the financial stability of a school district it is not the only area having an impact.
School districts need adequate funds to properly run their schools and provide the necessary books and equipment to provide a quality education. While the present financial situation in our country and many of our states are difficult there may be a positive side to the situation. This may be difficult for some to understand but school districts must realize that there is not an endless amount of tax money available to run each school district. This is a hard fact but true. Today many school districts are putting levies on election ballots to acquire the sometimes necessary funds to properly run their schools. The mistake some schools make is to constantly place a school levy on the ballot come election time. Those who pay these taxes that become available are not going to constantly approve paying more taxes unless it can be positively proven the need exists.
I am a strong supporter of our school system throughout our country but many times proving a need can be hard to achieve based on past publicity received concerning expenditures of the funds they receive. When it is perceived by those who must vote for a school levy that funds are not being spent wisely it will be difficult to convince voters otherwise. There are many fine school districts and many do spend their money more wisely than others. Having a tight financial situation will force school districts and the Boards of Education who run them to examine what is needed and what expenditure can be eliminated.
Budget decisions by Boards of Education in school districts will not always be widely accepted as they sometimes appear to not have a logical path to the decisions made. This is not always the case but when decisions are made which lack a logical conclusion based on the facts the reputation of the school district and the Board of Education will be harmed.
Budget decisions for us as individuals we can deal with but when it comes to the budget for our schools it is less likely to be popular. The question is how school districts can address their present financial situation in a way that at least helps parents and the community understands the process. One big way is to directly allow input from parents and the community if the capability exists after the facts are given to them. In this respect they become a part of the process. This should occur even in good financial times as well as bad ones.
Budgets for school districts should be readily available with all the expenses identified so the public and the voters can understand where the money goes toward the education of children in their community. This may not be a popular idea or concept in some places but the public has a right to know how their money is being spent. This should encompass every aspect of operating a school district from the salaries of all individuals to the costs of books, equipment and utilities. Another aspect which should be a part of the financial figures is the costs of having various sports as part of the extracurricular activities.
This should not be taken that I am against sports activity within any school district as there are benefits to having an athletic program. The cost of having various sports programs and the amount of funds received should be analyzed as part of an overall budget program. In doing this analysis the benefits of each sport must be considered separate from the cost. When costs exceed the income for any given sport methods need to be created to bridge the gap between expenses and income. Some have done this as noted in various news reports both locally and nationally.
The budget process needs to be better defined where there appears to be a lack of a logical connection to the decisions made. Involving everyone in the community in some way may help to accept some of the tough decisions school districts are making in today’s financial environment. Another factor to consider is getting the opinion of the public on how they feel about the school district and the quality of education students are receiving. Knowing the opinion of how the school district is perceived can have an impact on decisions being made with respect to the budget.
One last point to make is even if the public feels more money is needed for their school district they may not have the funds to provide as individuals. Schools need to develop innovative ways to gain funds to support the basic needs of the district and the students who are in it. Having a good reputation is a plus not only as part of the community but it can have an impact on whether new businesses will decide to locate in the community. There needs to be a balance between what funds are available and what expenses can be reduced or eliminated to have a balanced budget. One thing is for sure schools unlike other institutions cannot spend more money than they have so the decisions to allocate the funds to all the basic activities are critical.