WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN DISTRICT BUDGETS

All data on the printouts are from school district Budget and Annual Reports. Line numbers on the printed reports correspond with the Chart of Account used by Wisconsin schools to report funding, and are data from the Fund 10, or general operating budget. Revenue summary This document provides a summary of revenue received by the district. Budget amounts projected by the district are in column 2, actual amounts received are in column 3, and the dollar and percent difference between the two are in columns 4 and 5. For Local Sources (200), note how property tax revenues declined in 1996(97). Compare today's dollar amount with property tax support in 1993(94) to document the diminished burden for local citizens. Note the increase in State Aid (600) in 1996(97). More money from the state allows districts to carry smaller reserve amounts - many districts today receive millions more annually than they did prior to 1996. Calculate how much Total Revenues (999) increased between 1993(94) and today. Compare this with increases in pay, using the BA minimum, for example. Has pay kept pace with overall revenue growth? For all funding sources, determine if projections (column 2, "Proposed") in the Budget were accurate by comparing them with actual monies received in column 3. If a district consistently receives more money than it anticipated, then chances are strong that current 'budget projections are also off the mark Question significant anomalies. Explanations should be made, for example, if a district projects receiving one-half of the prior year's federal funding, but then actually procures more funding than the previous year. Perhaps the district obtained an unexpected grant, or perhaps it was a knowing underestimation of revenues for the upcoming year. Consistently over-projected revenues also are problematic; districts would then be budgeting revenues they never attained, draining district balances. Overall, revenue projections should be relatively stable and consistent, with projected amounts not varying widely from actual amounts received by the district.

WEAC Collective Bargaining/Research, October 2002

Expenditure summary This document provides a summary of district expenditures. Budget amounts projected by the district are in column 2; the percent that amount is of the total budget is in column 3; the percent increase over the previous year in column 4; the actual amount spent in column 5; and the percent difference between the projected and actual amount in column 6. Note that each series has further sub-series below it - levels of detail that are excluded from this report. Summary totals, however, can depict important tends. Important: Total instruction (100000) figures reflect a change in federal reporting that moved special education spending to a separate fund. Declines found here between 1997 and 1998 reflect this accounting change as opposed to any real decline in spending. Undifferentiated-or elementary-curriculum (11000) and Regular curriculum (120000) are the salaries and benefits paid to "regular" teaching staff including monies for capital and non-capital objects. Look for trends-has spending here kept pace with gains in revenue or total expenditures found elsewhere in the budget? Has the amount of spending declined within the overall budget (see column 3, % of Total Proposed)? Is the district consistently spending money allocated for these areas; or, do unspent funds remain that were then spent elsewhere by the district (see column 6, % of Proposed Spent)? Examine expenses for General Administration (230000) and Building Administration (240000) and compare changes here with the rest of the budget. Look for spending trends-determine if these items increased as a share of the budget over time. Can a "wrong priorities" argument be made here or with other budget items that increases don't focus on educational quality? Look for anomalies-do some items increase disproportionately as a share of the budget; do funding levels fluctuate significantly from year-to-year; are there items on which the district consistently over or underestimates funding by significant degrees? Large discrepancies should be explained and unspent monies in one area might be available for compensation in another. As you analyze expenses for Business Administration (250000), realize that the totals here are a function of spending in Fiscal (252000), Buildings Operation (253000), Maintenance (254000), Remodeling (255060), Transportation (256000), and Internal Services (258000). These smaller "sub accounts" total to the larger 250000 account. Also, large increases found in the 400000 series around 1998 reflect monies moved from Fund 10 to the newly created Fund 27 now used to report special education expenses. Remember, large percent changes are often found when examining small dollar amounts; make sure that substantive dollar amounts are involved in any query. WEAC Collective Bargaining/Research, October 2002

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