I’ve been thinking about the expression “living within one’s means” – and the economics of personal and family budgets — and how it translates to the economics of school boards and school district budgets.
I wondered if there is something about the kinds of practical advice personal financial Planners give to Individuals and Families that is applicable to the kinds of advice school district superintendents and directors of finance can and should offer school boards as they face a myriad of decisions monitoring current fiscal year budgets and plan for next school year and the one after that and the one after that and the one after that.
Well, I came upon this article on PracticalMoneySkills.com on this very subject of how to “Live Within Your Means.” I’ve copied and pasted a portion of it and included the link if you want to read the entire post. Read it over. I believe the advice is pertinent to individuals, couples, families AND school boards. See what you think, because I believe every point can apply to school board budget planning.
Live Within Your Means
If you are like many Americans, you may find that you are spending more than you’re saving and steadily going deeper into debt as a result. This is an easy and common pattern to fall into, and one that requires some planning and discipline to reverse.
The first step is creating a budget. As unpleasant as this may sound, creating a budget is nothing more than examining your income and expenditures in order to determine exactly how much money you have coming in and where you’re spending that money.
Once you’ve got a clear understanding of your current budget, your challenge is to find places where you can spend less (or earn more) in order to achieve your financial goals.
Here are some steps you can take toward that end:
- Question Your Needs And Wants
What do you want? What do you really need? Evaluate your current financial situation. Take a look at the big picture. Make two lists – one for needs and one for wants. As you make the list, ask yourself:
• Why do I want it?
• How would things be different if I had it?
• What other things would change if I had it? (for better or worse)
• Which things are truly important to me?
• Does this match my values?
- Set Guidelines
We all have different budgets based on our needs and wants. But the Building a Budget chart on the next page shows some guidelines on how much should go toward different expenses. You may need to make adjustments for a daily latte fix or visits to family, but remember to subtract amounts from other areas if you do.
- Track, Trim And Target
Once you start tracking, you may be surprised to find you spend hundreds of dollars a month on eating out or other flexible expenses. Some of these are easily trimmed. Cutting back is usually a better place to start than completely cutting out. Be realistic. It will help you to be better prepared for unexpected costs.
Now, here’s what I’d add to that, specifically with regard to the Wayland Union Schools administration and school board.
1. “Pay yourselves first.”
Our first family financial planner was a fellow named George Grambau – marvelous man, may he rest in peace – who worked for the Franklin Life Insurance Co. used that expression all the time as his mantra. Save first. Spend second he would say. Before you decide what your expenditures are going to be, decide how much you can set aside for a time when you will need those savings to deal with an emergency or perhaps for retirement. School districts know there will ALWAYS be emergencies. Something is always going to break down and most likely when you least expect it. And to use a saving for retirement analogy, think of “retiring” a school bus or some other piece of equipment that has outlived its usefulness or its ability to function full time. Well, if you have money set aside, pay cash for the new bus or other piece of equipment.
2. “No more loans.”
Repeat. No more loans. Not for iPads. Not for buses. Not for cash flow. And certainly no more loans for classroom additions or wings on school buildings. It’s still awful enough the district is indebted to United Bank for the high school science wing from 2015-2025. Buy what you can afford out of an annual budget set-aside and no more. Buy only what you really need instead of what you’ve otherwise convinced yourself you simply want.
3. “Build ONE Budget”
For heaven’s sake, once and for all, get a handle on how best to spend the Casino Revenue. For my part, if it helps – remember that technically those dollars are “in lieu of taxes” – if the Gun Lake Tribe was not a “sovereign nation” the money would simply be school taxes and they would go directly into the general fund just like monies from the State of Michigan or the US government. Of course now, that’s where they do go – but for the past four years the district has considered the money somehow different than that. Wayland Union Schools is the richest school district (except for Saugatuck) in Allegan County. There’s NO legitimate reason it should be struggling with finances. None.
Please attend the next meeting of the Wayland Board of Education, speak up during “Public Comment” and remind trustees the Wayland Union School District should LIVE WITHIN ITS MEANS.
And if you cannot attend, write to one or more or all of the trustees below and include your thoughts on how the Wayland Union Schools should LIVE WITHIN ITS MEANS.
Wayland Union Schools – Board of Education Meetings & Workshops
• March 9, 7:00, Pine Street Elementary, 201 Pine Street, Wayland.
• March 16, 6:00 p.m. Administration Building, 850 E. Superior, Wayland.
• March 23, 6:00, Administration Building, 850 E. Superior, Wayland.
• April 20, 7:00 p.m., Wayland Union Middle School, 701 Wildcat Drive, Wayland.
• May 18, 7:00 p.m., Wayland Union Middle School, 701 Wildcat Drive, Wayland .
• June 8, 7:00 p.m., Wayland Union Middle School, 701 Wildcat Drive, Wayland.
• June 22, 7:00, Administration Building, 850 E. Superior, Wayland.
• July 13, 7:00 p.m., Administration Building, 850 E. Superior, Wayland.
• Nancy Thelen, President, Email: email@example.com Phone: 616-877-3098
• Tom Salingue, Vice President, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 269-792-2061
• Toni Ordway, Treasurer, Email: email@example.com Phone: 269-910-3297
• Theresa Dobry, Secretary, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 616-681-2119
• Pete Zondervan, Trustee, Email: email@example.com Phone: 616-450-1468
• Janel Hott, Trustee, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: (h) 269-792-0297 (c) 269-250-0286
• Gary Wood, Trustee, Email: email@example.com Phone: 616-681-2120.