At some point, often between October and February, the district superintendent, a district business official or another district official will present to the school board a budget forecast for the coming year. This presentation may also include data about the current year’s budget situation.
For instance, on Jan. 28, 2006, the Royal Oak Public Schools held a “Board of Education Workshop” to discuss the state of the district’s current and future fiscal affairs. This workshop was attended by one of the authors.
Royal Oak Public Schools is one of the state’s 51 hold-harmless districts[ccxxii] and thus spends more per pupil than many other districts. The Royal Oak Public Schools has experienced declining student enrollment and revenue and has subsequently made spending cuts, including staff reductions, school closures and property sales.
The major portion of Royal Oak’s budget workshop involved a detailed discussion of the coming budget, including a decision-making schedule for the board and other personnel involved in the budget process.[ccxxiii] The district’s executive director of business and personnel services projected a $150 increase in the district’s basic foundation allowance, making the allowance $9,176. He also reported that the district was forecasting an enrollment decline of 251 students, resulting in a revenue loss of nearly $2.3 million. Presentations like Royal Oak’s occur in school districts across Michigan every winter.
This “step three” in the budget process is almost purely informative, bringing board members, union representatives and the public up to speed on the district’s current and future budget. Once the workshop is concluded, the district’s administrators will begin gathering input on spending priorities from other district officials.
In larger districts, this goal is often accomplished by issuing and collecting budget request forms. (As mentioned under “Step 2,” this process of soliciting spending requests often occurs before the budget workshop.) After these budget forms are returned to the central office, the information is usually entered into the district’s data processing system.
Smaller districts, in contrast, may have face-to-face meetings with key personnel for input on budget needs. This collection of feedback does not necessarily end in February. For instance, the Rockford Public School system has in the past dedicated January, February and March to what it describes as its “listening” phase.
In Traverse City in 2006, the district scheduled more than 30 presentations between Jan. 4 and March 30 to such groups as the district’s local principals, League of Women Voters, Rotary club, parent-teacher organization and collective bargaining units. Most of these meetings are designed to elicit feedback for use in the budget-building process.
The members of the budget team may also brainstorm ideas for saving money or generating new revenues. Some ideas implemented in recent years to address school deficits include closing buildings and selling property or the “naming rights” to a high school football stadium. In November 2005, The Ann Arbor News reported that advertisements would be placed inside 45 Ypsilanti school buses to generate revenue.
[ccxxiii] The Royal Oak Public Schools budget timeline includes the following dates: Dec. 16, 2005, distribution of budget instructions and projected budget allocations; Feb. 17, 2006, budget submissions from key decision-makers due; March 10, 2006, preliminary budget revenue and cost forecast reports generated; April 14, 2006, recommended budget completed; May 11, 2006, recommended budget presented to school board and the community; June 8, 2006, millage rate adoption and public hearing; and June 22, 2006, budget adoption.