Strategic budgeting involves creating a multi-year budgeting plan that supports the long-term goals and vision set by the school district. It should represent the district’s strategic plan in action and allow the district to identify the financial resources required to support its goals and initiatives. It should also include measurable metrics to assess the success of those goals and adjust as necessary. Effective strategic budgeting ensures that districts are using resources efficiently to improve student learning and success. So how should a school district create a strategic financial plan that not only communicates the district’s priorities and goals but aligns them with opportunities to maximize student success?
Finance team, meet the Academics team
In order for resources to reach students in the best way possible, CFOs and Finance Managers need insights from those who interact daily with students. This collaboration allows the district to glean academic performance insights that will guide the strategic budgeting process. Engaging finance and instructional staff will help the district develop successful budgeting processes that are likely to be upheld long after the budget season is over.
Embed your goals in your Chart of Accounts
It’s important that districts ensure that the budget is aligned to the district’s strategic plan. For many school districts, the strategic plan is created in conjunction with the Superintendent, the school board, and other stakeholders and communicate the district’s high-level priorities over several years. However, a strategic plan is only half of a plan; districts also need to establish a corresponding financial plan that assigns resources to the goals outlined in the strategic plan. When a district embeds the strategic plan within the chart of accounts, spending can be tracked against the district’s goals and the district can ensure intentional and strategic spending.
Chart your SMART Pathway
Establishing goals and connecting it to spending creates a common vision for change. Setting arbitrary strategic goals that aren’t tied to your district’s finances won’t help you actualize your district’s vision. Develop goals that will help your district tackle operational and administrative challenges proactively and address roadblocks that impede sustainable financial management practices. Many goals school districts set relate to one of five pathways; Site-level Autonomy, Management, Alignment of Spending to Goals, Resource Equity, or Transparency. Try to group your goals into their corresponding pathway and see if you observe any recurring or common trends. This insight can help you further shape your district’s strategic plan and develop specific, measurable outcomes to advance your district’s efforts.
Your district’s strategic financial plan should be the road map your district uses to accomplish its priorities. A strong financial infrastructure and a systematic way to tie spending to goals will enable a deeper understanding of the overall efficacy of the district’s spending. This insight can lead to fruitful and frequent academic ROI analysis and program evaluations that work to further maximize opportunities for students.
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