IMPROVING SCHOOL
GOVERNANCE

3.1 Finance - Online learning activity A - Budgeting

Goal

To enable councillors to:

  • review a budget submission
  • know what questions to ask the principal about the budget.

Resources

Steps

  1. Imagine yourself as a member of a finance sub-committee for a primary school (if you are not already).
  2. Read the school strategic plan extract and program budget submissions
  3. Answer each of the questions below

Question One

What information would you need to be able to review the program budget submissions?

Answer:

As the primary goals of the strategic plan is to improve learning outcomes for all students in literacy and numeracy you would prioritise the Mathematics and Literacy budget (of the budgets that are presented here).  Literacy it seems has a clear goal of their expenditure, Mathematics is a little broader.  The Finance Committee could assess whether the ICT Program Budget could support these areas (Mathematics and Literacy) with their budget requests (ie technology use for these learning areas, use of apps, etc). 

To ensure councillors can adequately review budget submissions, each submission should include:

  • an explanation of the program’s rationale (how it meets the school’s strategic priorities)
  • separately listed essential and non-essential expenditure (prioritising)
  • evaluation of current and prior year program outcomes.

It would also be useful if submissions compared budgeted expenditure to expenditure in previous years.

Question Two

What questions would you have for the principal?

Answer:

A finance sub-committee and the principal could discuss:

  • how the budget submissions have been prioritised (it is the role of finance sub-committee and council to review the priority list)
  • the expenditure estimates (to be satisfied that these are fair and reasonable)
  • what items the equipment budgets are to be spent on.

It might also be helpful to discuss totals by item in the budget, for example, how much will be spent on professional learning across the school. Discussion could also be had about the sharing of resources (including professional development).

Question Three

What information would you use to evaluate the priority of the budget submissions (the principal being responsible for submitting a priority list of program budgets)?

Answer:

To evaluate the priority of budget submissions, it is important to confirm, using information provided:

  • that the submissions directly address priority areas (councillors are responsible for monitoring that this is the case)
  • the estimated school income for the year (which determines the funding available for programs).

Conclusion

Key points to remember are that councillors need to understand:

  • what should be in a budget submission
  • identify essential and non-essential expenditure in each program submission so that known expenses are covered
  • evaluate prior year program outcomes
  • review submissions against school strategic plan priorities as decided by council.

Councillors may also question:

  • the amount of the school’s income
  • how the proposed expenditure in each program budget compares to previous expenditure in each program
  • the items on which equipment budgets will be spent
  • the totals by item in the budget (for example, how much will be spent on professional development across the school).

Councillors would expect to see monies being committed to priority areas and councillors are responsible for monitoring that it is occurring.

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