The School Budget-Making Process, Step by Step
Step 1: Where the money comes from
These sources account for almost all of City Schools' revenue:
- The State of Maryland (in 2013-14, this accounted for about 68 percent of total revenue)
- The City of Baltimore (19 percent)
- The federal government (11 percent)
- Other sources (2 percent)
The state and city develop their budgets in sessions running from January to March. City Schools' Chief Financial Officer and staff begin to develop the district budget in January, based on early projections, and refine it as the budgeting process evolves in Annapolis and at City Hall. By March, the revenue projections are fairly final.
Step 2: Forecasting school needs
Overall funding for schools and budgets for individual schools are first determined according to projected enrollment for the upcoming year. Funding is then further adjusted to reflect anticipated expenses, particularly increases in costs of salaries and benefits.
Projecting enrollment. The Achievement and Accountability Office compiles enrollment projections by grade level for every school in the district. But projecting enrollment for any one school, let alone each grade, is difficult — so initial projections are sent to principals for comment and revision. Read the guidance about accessing and reviewing enrollment projections.
The final enrollment projection used to prepare each school's revenue allocation is set by a committee with representatives from OAA, operations, finance and student support. When the enrollment picture becomes clearer to principals over the summer, the enrollment projection can be adjusted (see Step 6, below).
Anticipating expenses. Salaries for the coming school year are predictable, but benefit expenses — particularly those related to health care — can be difficult to estimate, and have been rising steadily in recent years. District office staff must also estimate costs of utilities, insurance, debt payments and the like, and must hold in reserve sufficient funds to cover such things as emergency repairs to boilers or furnaces.
Among the expenses that are not reflected in school budgets but are inextricably linked to school operations, transportation is the most significant. The cost of getting students to and from school is high, particularly for individual transportation plans driven by IEPs or to provide services for students in unique situations (such as those experiencing homelessness).
Questions about projected enrollment and budget allocations can be directed to Channa Williams in the district office at 410-396-8744.
Step 3: Receiving and responding to school budget allocations
With revenue and expense projections in hand, the district issues individual school budgets to principals, usually early in February. These budgets show enrollment and revenue allocations side by side, so principals can see quickly how the numbers were derived.
Budget making must be informed by collaboration with and input from the school community. Principals must schedule a School Community Budget Forum prior to preparing their budgets, in order to share information and identify priorities for the coming year. For support in involving your school community in the budget-making process, contact the Engagement Office (410-545-1870) or your network's Family and Community Engagement Specialist.
Step 4: Loading your school budget
The budget planning tool will be available in February. Training sessions will be scheduled, and ongoing support is provided by the Data and Human Capital specialists on your network.
Within 10 days of submitting the budget, principals must schedule a meeting with their school communities. The chair of the School Family Council and a member of the Advisory Team must submit feedback forms on the process.
Step 5: Budget approval
Submitted budgets are reviewed by most departments at the district office. Principals are contacted about any questions or concerns. If substantial changes are required, principals must reassemble their leadership team and School Family Council to discuss them.
Step 6: Summer revisions
Throughout the summer, the budget office receives updates on school enrollment and shares them with individual schools. If a school's enrollment begins to vary significantly from the number used to establish the budget allocation, the principal will be contacted either by the budget office or a member of the network team. The principal can apply for an advance on the budget if it becomes clear that September 30 enrollment will be significantly higher than originally projected — so that additional staff can be hired over the summer.
Step 7: Matching budgets and official enrollment
Final budget allocations are based on the September 30 enrollment at each school. For budget purposes, students are considered enrolled when they are current on vaccinations, have attended school prior to September 30 and, for middle and high school, are enrolled in classes.