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.

Best Practices in School Budgeting

A. Establish a partnership between the finance and instructional leaders. A collaborative process increases the likelihood that the decisions made will be supported after the budget process is over.
B. Develop principles and policies to guide the budget process. Budget principles and policies formalize standards and fundamental values that should govern the budgeting process.
C. Analyze current levels of student learning.  The current state of academic performance must be assessed to determine what course of action to take.
D. Identify communications strategy. The budget process should include a plan to inform participants, stakeholders, and the general public about how the budget process works, why each decision was made and how to provide input in the process.


GFOA Best Practices


  • Achieving a Structurally Balanced Budget. GFOA recommends that governments adopt rigorous policies, for all operating funds  aimed at achieving and maintaining a structurally balanced budget.
  • Adopting Financial Policies. GFOA recommends that governments formally adopt financial policies.  Steps to consider when making effective financial policies include (1) scope, (2) development, (3) design, (4) presentation, and (5) review.
  • Appropriate Level of Unrestricted Fund Balance in the General Fund. GFOA recommends that governments establish a formal policy on the level of unrestricted fund balance that should be maintained in the general fund for GAAP and budgetary purposes. Such a guideline should be set by the appropriate policy body and articulate a framework and process for how the government would increase or decrease the level of unrestricted fund balance over a specific time period. In particular, governments should provide broad guidance in the policy for how resources will be directed to replenish fund balance  should the balance fall below the level prescribed.
  • Establishing an Effective Grants Policy. GFOA recommends that governments develop a formal grants policy.  Further, GFOA recommends that such a policy address steps to take prior to applying for or accepting grants.

Related Topics


Topic Example Documents District Examples
  • Financial Policies
  • Budget Principles
  • Communication Strategy


 Other Resources



  No Time to Lose: How to Build a World-Class Education System State by State