Principal Finance Interview

What Are the Top Three Most Important Things a New Principal Must Know about School Finance and Budgeting?

First of all, a new principal should have a clear understanding of the amount of overall spending required to keep the operations run smoothly. Secondly, a decision on spending generates from the pre-defined parameters, which outline the exact ways in which certain budget codes can be spent. Third, the principal should understand the difference between the fixed account codes that are characterized by the same amount of funds allocated annually and flexible codes, which are more dependent on such issues as enrollment, grants, and other functional elements.

Please, Tell about a Difficult Budget Decision You Have Had to Make as the School Principal

Most recently, one of such budget decisions necessitated us to determine reductions of the direct and indirect services provided to students and calculate the possibilities of all relevant scenarios.

Who is Involved in Your School’s Budget and How Are the Tasks Divided?

Members of the administration team collaborate to define the way current FTE spending is allocated, including money of the compensatory fund. The principal assigns priorities to the capital spending requests submitted by different members of the team. The main secretary and the school bookkeeper monitor each budget account. Moreover, the principal holds monthly meetings with the main secretary and the school bookkeeper. These meetings are aimed at reviewing budget amounts, monitoring spending, approving the current spending requests, and assessing the percentage ratio of each account. In turn, heads of various departments are responsible for monitoring their budget balances and claiming the adequate funding to cover the intended spending. Consequently, the nature of budget allocations and their priorities change depending on the composition and focus of the administration team.

As a New Principal, What Were the Supports You Received When Working with the School’s Budget?

The lack of the budget support and focus on the part of the administration team complicated the process of making spending decisions during the first year. However, previous management experience accumulated in another district facilitated finding solutions in regard to budget support issues.

What Are Your Main Considerations When Making Decisions about the School Budget?

First of all, it is essential to take into account the amount of overall spending attributed to each area in the previous year. Secondly, it is important to determine the degree to which the needs of each department are currently satisfied as compared to their optimum levels. The principal has to understand the basic difference between the rationalized needs and excessive requests he receives from the departmental administration members. He has to be able to identify strategic school-oriented goals and pursue relevant initiatives, thus, securing maximum utility for budget allocations.

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Do Certain Parts of Your Building Budget Transfer from Year to Year? Or Are You Required to Use All of Your Budget Every Year?

The budget amounts do not transfer. For this reason, the school administration tries to use its annual budget in the best way, even though it is not bound to spend all of it. The leftover amount can be used to offset overages or transferred to district funds.

How Do You Determine Your Budget Priorities?

In most cases, the aggregated expenditures exceed the obtained funding. For this reason, school initiatives seek to attract any costs that are not pre-determined. The key to success is focusing on cost-efficiency without compromising the quality of services provided to the students. Supporting innovation and new programming used to make the original solutions working are two of the crucial approaches. Moreover, to control the size of classes and maintain staff support are considered as the highest priorities. Finally, it is essential to ensure capital expenditures required to sustain the building.

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