K-12 Education

Time to adjust budgeting practices

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The Government Financial Officers Association (GFOA) recommends that districts, especially those with many school sites, need to have a clear and transparent method for determining how resources will be allocated to individual school sites (Best Practices in School Budgeting, GFOA). Districts should use allocation methods that work to align resource used at the school sites with the District’s Plan of Action for effective instructional strategies and resource deployment.


A 2016 L.A. Times Op-Ed piece also notes that: “When enrollment falls – regardless of whether it falls because students leave to attend charter schools, move away or because birth rates dip – districts have a hard time reducing their spending to match their revenues. Charter schools aren’t to blame; typical district budgeting practices are. Districts often make bulky, inflexible and sometimes irreversible spending commitments that outlive their administrations or don’t match up with revenues. The situation, however, isn’t hopeless. They can start by restructuring their school budgets to automatically expand and contract with enrollment.”


Let’s look at how the budgeting is done:

  • Historically, districts used a staffing formula to assign fixed numbers and types of staff to each school. Then budget school resources based on staff salaries. Though many districts still use the staffing formula approach, growing numbers of big-city districts are shifting from this approach to funding schools based on the number and types of students they serve
  • This new funding process is known as Student Based Allocation (SBA)
  • Under SBA, a district determines a fixed dollar increment per student and allocates resources to schools based on their student enrollment
  • Frequently, districts allocate additional per-pupil increments for different types of students, thus “weighting” resources toward students who require additional services, such as low-income students or English-language learners
  • Districts making the shift to SBA seek to enhance budget transparency, increase funding equity across schools and devolve resource-use decisions to schools


Student Based Allocation allows for a equity and rational allocation of funds among students and schools, but implementation requires budgeting capabilities beyond conventional systems.


If you’re looking for a comprehensive, streamlined budgeting software, try Questica Budget. It enables school districts to improve their budgeting practices. The web-based platform allows schools to track operating and capital project budgets, and provides comprehensive tools for calculating expenses associated with staff salaries and benefits. School districts can utilize the software to promote stakeholder input in the creation and evaluation of unlimited multiyear forecasting and hypothetical budget scenarios.


Questica Budget also allows the current budget to be forwarded into the next year, which eliminates a great deal of the data entry. Associated documents and links are automatically rolled forward, if necessary. Changes can be made at any point in the budget process without the back and forth typically required with a paper or spreadsheet-based system.



At Questica, we develop and market budgeting solutions for the public sector. That’s all we do. We currently manage over $55 billion in annual public sector budgets for over 200 customers.


If you would like to find out how we can help your school district allocate resources in the most equitable manner, try out one of Questica Budget today.