Smarter School Spending

Smarter School Spending - Framework

Best Practices in School Budgeting


GFOA has developed a series of Best Practices in School Budgeting, which clearly  outline steps to developing a budget that best aligns resources with student achievement goals. This  document provides the framework and summarizes the key themes from those Best Practices.   

The budgeting process framework presented in these Best Practices is focused on optimizing student  achievement within available resources. It encompasses a complete cycle for long-term financial  planning and budgeting, including planning and preparing to undertake the budget process,  developing a budget, evaluating how the budget process worked, and adjusting accordingly. Within  this cycle, the district’s instructional priorities provide a guide for decision-making.  


GFOA recommends that all districts go through the following steps as part of  their planning and budgeting process. 

Step 1. Plan and Prepare.

The planning and budgeting process begins with mobilizing key  stakeholders, gathering information on academic performance and cost structure, and establishing  principles and policies to guide the budget process.

Step 2. Set Instructional Priorities.

The budget needs to be rooted in the priorities of the district.  Intentionally created instructional priorities provide a strong basis for developing a district’s budget  and strategic financial plan, as well as presenting a budget document.

Step 3. Pay for Priorities.

Current resources and expenditures must be thoroughly analyzed in order  to find capacity to pay for top instructional priorities.

Step 4. Implement Plan.

The “strategic financial plan” is the long-term road map for implementing  the district’s instructional priorities. A “plan of action” describes how the strategic financial plan will  be translated into coherent actionable steps.

Step 5. Ensure Sustainability.

The planning and budgeting process should be one that can be  replicated in the future in order to ensure the district remains focused and plans accordingly for  reaching its student achievement goals.