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K-12 Public School Budgeting Process


The school budget is one of the most important factors in determining its success, making it one of the most labor-intensive projects. The budgeting process could be a year-round process requiring the district finance leaders to keep track of all the spending (VANCO 2021). In this case, the people in charge of preparing the budget require all the available resources to ensure they come up with the most comprehensive budget for the whole fiscal year. The school budget should be a tangible variable that presents the community with educational promises. Every year, the boards of education and all the involved parties set education goals. Achieving these goals should be part of the school budget to ensure they receive the required resources. In this case, the K-12 school budgeting process is very vital, but the process is not as complicated as it may sound. Through this article, it will be possible to understand the steps to follow while preparing the K-12 school budget.

Step 1. Set Goals

Every budget is prepared with specific goals in mind. In this case, the district finance heads should come up with goals that align with the budget. The team preparing the budget should record all the goals that should be achieved within the year. All the goals should be recorded and later sorted out. Surveys, meetings, and focus groups can help determine what the stakeholders expect from the budget (PowerSchool 2020). The students, teachers, guardians, and the entire community should be considered as part of the stakeholders and should contribute to determining the needs of the district.

The goals should be organized according to their importance to ensure the crucial ones come first. There should be a clear process set by the administrators on how to prepare the budget and ensure it is within the timeline. The goals set at this stage should be specific, with a timeline within which they should be complete and a way of measurement (Poston 2010). There should be a clear connection between the set goals and students’ performances. There should be instructions on how to achieve the goals. Building the budget around specific goals ensures the resources are spent in the best way possible.

Step 2. Analyze Spending Patterns

Every institution has a spending pattern that, in most cases, is repetitive. In most cases, the areas the money was spent on the previous years are the same to spend in the current year. At this stage, the stakeholders should identify where most of their money was spent the previous year and where it is currently. Cost analysis at this stage is essential as it will give a view on the budget requirements for every student or teacher (PowerSchool 2020). With this information, it will be possible to provide a benchmark for the year’s spending. It is essential to compare the spending habits for the k-12 public school in the district o that of other districts.

Information on the student’s performance is essential since the school’s mission is to ensure the students do well. The budget and the evaluation of the spending habits should be connected to the student’s performance. The highest percentage of the K-12 school budget is spent on personnel costs, and the board should ensure that the money is spent in the right way to achieve the school’s objectives (VANCO 2021). The teachers play a crucial role in the success of the school, and this is why most of the budget goes to their needs, which includes their salaries.

Step 3. Building a Practical Approach

For the budget to work effectively, it requires the support of key stakeholders. The community will trust and support the K-12 school heads when they involve all stakeholders in the process of making the budget (Hanrahan 2021). The money spent in these institutions comes from taxes collected from the citizens, and they will feel good when they know where and how the money is spent. Transparency is essential throughout the process. Communication is key as it ensures all the stakeholders are aware of the decisions made, why they have been made, and are given a chance to air their views.

All stakeholders should be part of the team that defines the performance of the budget and make a follow-up on the program performance. Since everyone can not attend the meetings planning the budget, there should be representatives from all departments (Poston 2010). The representatives should then present the reports to all stakeholders and ensure they understand why various decisions were made. The benefits from every goal should be clear and communicated publicly on how they benefit the students.

Step 4. Select the Best K-12 School Budgeting Model

Site-based, line-item, performance-based, and zero-based are some of the models available while creating a budget. The site-based budgeting model is one of the most used models today. Many stakeholders prefer this type of budgeting as it involves everyone in the decision-making process. As mentioned, transparency is essential while creating the budget, and everyone will go for the model that opens up the doors for communication. To effectively use this model, the local administrators should understand all the budgeting practices to provide the right information to other stakeholders. The budgeting process should be carried out to the best to ensure that it delivers the district’s mission and help students achieve their goals (Hanrahan 2021). The goals are well defined and communicated to all stakeholders, and this opens up the door for creating the budget using the best model.

Step 5. Track Costs

After creating the budget, it’s time to ensure it is well implemented and all the resources are used the right way. The budget should be in line with the district’s strategic plan, and the alignment ensures the resources are spent in ways that help further the set goals. The team responsible for tracking the budget should fully understand it and use various data systems to know how the money is spent (PowerSchool 2020). Tracking the budget requires the team to have all the financial requirements of the school. There should be frequent reports that present the use of money to assure everyone that the school is on the course of attaining its goals and objectives.


The budgeting process is one of the most important activities to undertake for the district finance leaders. The budget is followed for the whole year, and making mistakes could interrupt the institution in the process of attaining the set goals. In this case, it is essential to follow the most comprehensive process. Communication is key to this process as it gives all the stakeholders the opportunity to go through the set goals and provide their feedback (Poston 2010). Today, technology has made it easy to prepare the budget for the K-12 public schools while involving all the stakeholders. Systems such as enterprise resource planning help in tracking the budget implementation. The budget should align with the district and school goals and objectives.


Jo Ann Hanrahan (2021). Pro Tips: Finance & Funding for K-12 Public Schools. Retrieved from

PowerSchool (2020). 5 Keys to Smarter K-12 School Budgeting. Retrieved from

VANCO (2021). K-12 School Budgeting & Planning – The Free Comprehensive Guide. Retrieved from

William K. Poston (2010). School Budgeting for Hard Times: Confronting Cutbacks and Critics 1st Edition


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