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You may be asking right now: “How do you create a school budget plan?” Whether you’re an experienced budgeting professional or new to budgeting altogether, it’s always a great idea to have a thorough checklist to review with administrators, teachers, the accounting department, or the school board. 

Following a comprehensive “back-to-school” checklist for school budget managers can help start a smooth financial planning process! Here are 12 steps for creating a school budget for the upcoming academic year:

1. Review The Previous Year’s Budget & Set Budget Goals

Analyze the previous year’s budget and expenses to identify areas for improvement and adjustments for the new school year. It’s always helpful to collaborate with school administrators, department heads, or the school board to establish clear financial goals and priorities for the upcoming academic year. Make sure the budget aligns with the mission and vision of the school as well. Convey the budget priorities to school staff and stakeholders to ensure everyone is aligned with the financial plan.

2. Consider Your Budgeting Software or Process

Take a look at how you create your budget and make sure it matches the scale of your school’s needs. If your budget managers only use Excel spreadsheets or Google Sheets, it might be time to switch to a more robust budgeting software to facilitate efficient budget tracking, expense management, and financial reporting.

3. Update Enrollment and Cost-of-Living Projections

Gather updated enrollment projections to estimate the number of students for the new academic year, which will impact various budget categories and projections. Also, make sure to account for inflation and cost-of-living adjustments when projecting expenses to ensure that the budget remains realistic and sustainable. This could mean wage raises in the next year for teachers, or adjusting tuition for students; this could also affect how much your school spends on supplies, for example.

4. Compile Expense Categories

Create a list of expense categories, such as salaries, instructional materials, technology, facility maintenance, transportation, and extracurricular activities that might happen this year. 

5. Review Vendor Contracts and Agreements

Request quotes from vendors for various goods and services, such as textbooks, school supplies, uniforms, or maintenance contracts. Following that, assess existing contracts and agreements with vendors to ensure they align with the school’s needs and budget goals, and make adjustments as needed.

6. Evaluate Capital Expenditure Needs

Identify any necessary capital expenditures, such as equipment or facility upgrades, and plan for their inclusion in the budget. This could include a meeting with your maintenance team to see if there are any parts of your campus that need more immediate repairs or attention.

7. Plan for Staff Development, Events, or Field Trips

Allocate funds for professional development opportunities for faculty and staff, whether it be team bonding activities, training, in-service, certificates, and more. Budget for school trips, events, and activities throughout the academic year and coordinate with teachers on their ideas.

8. Account for Grants and Donations

Incorporate any expected grants or donations into the budget and ensure they are used according to the donors’ stipulations. It can be helpful to coordinate with the school board to see if there is anything coming up from specific donors or sponsors as well.

9. Create Contingency Funds

Set aside contingency funds to account for unexpected expenses or emergencies, such as property damage, accidents, weather events, or anything else out of the school’s control that could affect spending.

10. Budget for Technology Upgrades

Allocate funds for technology upgrades, software licenses, and maintenance for teachers and students, as well as administration. It may be time to upgrade the computers in certain rooms or the tablets students use for work in school, if they’re provided.

11. Review the Budget Periodically and Prepare for Audits

Implement a system for tracking expenses throughout the year to monitor budget performance and know how to adjust if needed. Also, schedule periodic budget review meetings to assess progress, make adjustments, and ensure financial goals are being met with the budgeting team, administrators, teachers, or the school board. Ensure all financial records and documentation are organized and ready for potential auditing from outside sources or your leadership!

12. Train Staff on Budget Procedures

Educate staff involved in budget management on the procedures, guidelines, and responsibilities related to the budget. If you’re implementing new budgeting software, make sure those who will access it are comfortable with the tool before the school year begins.

Every academic institution is different and will have different needs. Whether you manage the budget for an elementary school, middle school, high school, college, or other organization, this school budgeting checklist is a great starting point! Refreshing the way a budget manager plans for the school year can help ensure responsible financial decisions that directly impact your staff, teachers, parents, and students.

Looking to improve the way you budget, or just wanting to make budgeting a whole lot easier on you? Martus Solutions is a Cloud-based budgeting software that allows you to create, execute, and analyze budgets with ease. This tool was designed simply enough for budget managers that might not be finance people, but is also robust enough for budgeting experts! Built for schools, non-profits, churches, small businesses, associations, and so much more, we have customers all over the world that budget better with Martus.

Ready to learn more? contact us for a free demo today!