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Get Your Budget Process Started on the Right Foot; Use a Budget Development Calendar

By Kari Sousa - December 4, 2009

Like any successful project, the key to a successful budget development process is development of a plan and effective execution of the plan elements.  The best way to begin development of your budget planning process is by creating a budget development calendar.

Designing Your Budget Development Calendar

Budget Development Calendars are used to list important dates and events throughout the budget development process, as well as the individuals, departments, or organizations that are responsible for execution of each of the budget development elements.  Budget development calendars are utilized by all stakeholders to create awareness about the budget development process.  Many of these stakeholders do not deal with budget on a daily basis, so it is important to create a document that:

  • Establishes expectations about budget development process timelines;
  • Clearly outlines due dates and timelines for completion of tasks;
  • Outlines opportunities for stakeholder input and expectations for stakeholder participation in the budget development process; and
  • Develops timelines and parameters for the decision making process.

When developing a budget development calendar to be utilized as part of an inclusive budget development process, it is important to “think like a reporter” and ensure that the document stands alone to answer essential questions about the process.

 

ELEMENTS TO INCLUDE IN A BUDGET DEVELOPMENT CALENDAR

Dates

When are tasks expected to be completed?

Task Descriptions

What needs to be completed?

Responsibility

Who is responsible for completing the task?

Location

Where will meetings be held?  Where are forms due?

How to Develop a Budget Development Calendar

Budget Development Calendars are the written roadmap of the district’s budget development process.  A successful budget development process should involve multiple opportunities for stakeholder input, and multiple opportunities for discussion and decision making by staff and the Board.  For budget development to be a collaborative and inclusive process, it cannot begin with a plan developed only in the mind of the CBO or Superintendent alone. 

After you define the basic elements of your budget development process, the CBO or Fiscal Director should begin developing the Budget Development Calendar by backward planning.

Begin by listing the tasks and timelines that have fixed dates and deadlines – board meetings, public hearings, and layoff deadlines. 

Next, begin establishing the deadlines for decision making, providing sufficient time to complete work necessary to meet your fixed deadlines.

Finally, schedule dates for stakeholder input, providing sufficient time to compile, evaluate and communicate the information to be used in the decision making process.

After the draft has been developed, it should be reviewed by district administration and the governing board to solicit input prior to final adoption.

Adopting, Revising, and Communicating your Budget Development Calendar

A Budget Development Calendar should be more than just an administrative document utilized by the business office.  It should be formally adopted by the governing board to solidify the commitment of all stakeholders to the process.  Depending on the contents of the calendar, and the extent of the process, the budget development calendar should be adopted between December and February each year.  After the Calendar is adopted, place an adoption date at the bottom of the page.

Occasionally, things may happen that necessitate the revision of your budget development calendar.  For example, significant revisions to state budget projections can necessitate modifications to your budget development process.  These changes should be reflected by revising your budget development calendar.  Significant revisions should be re-adopted by the Governing Board and made available to the public through standard posting methods including the District web site.

Editor's Note:  Kari Sousa, CPA is Director of District Support Services with the educational consulting firm Total School Solutions (TSS).