Each year, we engage in a budgeting process that spans many months and hundreds of collective hours. As superintendent, I work closely with our business manager, admin team, site staffs, and local ASBs (Advisory School Boards) to develop a district-wide budget focused on what matters most to us: LEARNING! As an REAA (Rural Education Attendance Area), we rely on funding from the Alaska State Legislature to finance district operations. In future blog posts, we will examine how state funding works -- and it is complicated, indeed!
To begin with, it is important to know exactly where our funds come from ... and which funds we include in our "budget" each spring. The graphic below illustrates the various "envelopes" of money we have in the district. The "big envelope" in the center represents the General Fund, or our operating budget. These are the funds we are budgeting in our annual planning. The smaller, specialized envelopes surrounding the General Fund are earmarked for specific projects, initiatives, and efforts in the district. These funds cannot be budgeted for general use, but must be spent on specifics: For example, the FEA "envelope" represents grant funds that may only be used for activities related to Future Educators of Alaska (now known as Educators Rising) activities. Similarly, the Alaska Grown "envelope" is a bit of money that must be spent on locally grown foods for our nutrition program. While this funding is available to the district, it is categorized separately from the "big envelope" (General Fund) because it is reserved for specific expenditures.
To put it into household-budgeting terms, imagine you have a wealthy relative or benefactor who has gifted you with funds for very specific purposes: You have an envelope labeled "College Fund," for example. This envelope may have a bunch of money in it, but it has been reserved for nothing other than college tuition, books, room, and board, for your college-bound child. The CRSD's budget process, the General Fund, and the various funding sources work in the same way. We budget according to what we have available to spend on the various efforts existing in the district. While we may have to cut in one area (classified staff hours, for example), we may be spending more in another area because of a large grant that cannot be spent on staff.
It's complicated ... but it isn't. In the course of the this Budget Blog series, I hope to help all of our stakeholders better understand the budget process in the CRSD.