Belting it Out

About the line item detail expenses for a school district in Delaware, where do you find them?!  The answer is:

  1. A myriad of sources supply funds for just about everything and everyone in the district, there is no “single” stream of revenue. Example: $100 of a teacher’s salary may actually be $60 from the State of Delaware and $40 from local property taxes.  Or depending on the type of teacher or program they are in that $100 might be: $45 State, $45 Local, $10 Federal.  Those funding splits change all the time.  So it’s darn near impossible to continually list the splits in every document published.
  2. The way the State reports District expenses is not exactly how the District reports and expends money. (That online checkbook?  Garbage. Don’t even look at it).  District Data is substantially more accurate than the State’s.
  3. Different departments and operating units in the District spend funds on the same services and each unit must report its own expenses individually so they may then be rolled up to final budget totals.

Ever wonder why the federal government’s budget is thousands of pages long?  Let’s hit point #3:  Everyone has to report everything they plan to spend money on.  Money is only spent on things listed in the final budget for the district that is approved by the Board of Education every year.

Stay with me here:   Let’s visualize how Christina School District is organized in terms of the purchasing things.  Think of a tree from the trunk on up to the very tippy top branch.  Now, turn the tree upside down so the trunk is at the top and all the branches are below.  The trunk is Christina School District.  Where the trunk first divides into the real thick branches are the largest operating units within CSD:  Education, Finance, and Facilities.   We’ll climb down the Education branch called the Chief Academic Officer (Deputy Superintendent).

Following down the branch it divides into 4 smaller branches:  Elementary Ed, Secondary Ed, Special Services, Enrichment.   Down the Elementary Ed branch it divides into 24 smaller branches called Elementary School Principals.   Now we’re at the bottom of the upside down tree.  At any dividing point along the tree from the trunk on down to last branch, money can be expended and it can be expended on many of the same things (copy paper, for example).  Where each branch divides is a purchase point.

To help keep all those branches straight, we’ll assign a 5 digit account code to each one so we know which branch is which.  Now, let’s say every single account code (branch) needs a ream of paper.  How does CSD (the trunk) keep track of who needs the paper, where to send it and how much is needed?  Each branch sends a requisition for paper  with their account code up to the trunk.  The District sends out for the paper and it’s brought to the branch that ordered it.  Now apply that process for absolutely everything purchased in the District.   Requisitions sent from individual account codes to the District, District converts to purchase orders (read: buys the stuff) and it is delivered to the account that ordered it.

Keene Elementary requires copy paper.  The building leader sends a requisition for copy paper to the Director of Elementary Ed, then it goes to the Deputy Superintendent (these steps happen quickly) and over to the Chief Financial Officer.  If the requisition is for something listed in the Board approved budget (copy paper is definitely in there), it is changed to a purchase order and Keene gets its paper delivered.  If it is NOT for something in the budget or is for a larger than normal quantity of something in the budget, a conversation happens between the CFO’s office and the building leader regarding the need for the requisition.   That’s how it goes for everything, including things like contracted services and consultants.

The Final Budget is all the individual account code expenses rolled up into a relatively short list of annual totals.  Monthly financial reports are the monthly expenses of that relatively short list of items and account codes.

You still don’t know exactly where to find individual line item expenses yet, do you?   That’s not a coincidence.  There’s WAY more to this than meets the eye.  Which is why I shoot down the argument comparing School District finances to household budgets or personal checking accounts every single time I hear it.  Just cinch the District’s belt, right?   Which belt?  There are 267 of them. Ok, there may not be that many but there are a lot!  Stay tuned!

 

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