Smarter School Spending

Smarter School Spending - 1A - Establish a Partnership between Finance and Instructional Leaders

Establishing Governance and Ownership over the Budget Process

Districts can take a variety of approaches to creating a close working relationship between the academic and finance/budget officer, but observe the following guidelines:

  • Maintain a single owner of the process.
    While the academic officer must be closely involved in the budget process, the budget process is one of the core responsibilities of the finance or budget officer.
  • Develop a governance structure to help the process owner.
    A governance system gives key participants (e.g., the academic officer) a greater stake in the success of the budget process and role in achieving that success, without asking participants to micromanage.
  • Use existing committee structures whenever possible.
    Developing a governance structure should not entail the creation of new management committees if it can be avoided. Using existing committees and meeting times for budget process governance will reduce the amount of time and effort required of all participants.
  • Define decision-rights and accountabilities.
    The participants in the governance structure should have a clear understanding of their roles, which areas they have decision-making authority over, and what they are expected to accomplish.
  • Show how the budget process will make the organization more effective.
    If the participants in the governance structure understand how the budget process is intended to help them improve results, they will likely be more enthusiastic participants.

Establish Criteria and Measures for Success of the Budget Process

Districts should define a limited set of measures within the three broad categories;

  • Time:
    The duration of the budget process and budget decisions. Did the budget process start and end on time and was the budget adopted on time?
  • Cost
    The amount of time and effort spent on the budget process. Were the costs of time and energy worthwhile and acceptable?
  • Quality
    The extent to which the budget process fulfilled its intended purpose. There at least three dimensions to quality to consider, including financial health, level of engagement, and decision making.
    Financial - Did the budget produce financially sustainable decisions?
    Engagement - Did the process substantively engage a wide variety of stakeholders?
    Decisions - Perhaps most importantly, were good decisions made?


  • Level 1: Superintendent, chief academic officer, and chief financial officer agree to pursue Smarter School Spending (SSS) and commit to regularly review progress at cabinet meetings.
  • Level 2: Develop a formal governance structure to guide the district as it pursues progress on the SSS framework.
  • Level 3: Develop criteria to define what constitutes a successful budget process.

Quick Wins

•Quick Win: Discuss and agree between academic, financial officers with superintendent why pursuing the Best Practices is a good idea. Examine roadmap and identify what district wants to accomplish on the roadmap

•Why important? Established communication channel, documents/formalizes why Best Practices are being pursued

•How does this help district control/own process? Identifies specific steps they will focus on – choosing their own fate through the process.


Best Practice 1A - Establish a Partnership between Finance and Instructional Leaders

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Tool - Introductory District Diagnostic

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Case Studies - Beaverton, OR

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