If you haven’t already started, now is the time to begin.
I’ve always been a big advocate of a decent three-year budget plan and of the importance of completing revised budgets once or twice a year but completing your new year’s budget early gives time to review and revise where necessary.
You may be asking: why to go to the effort of completing my 18/19 budget early, if I already have a 3 year budget plan? But the truth is, most schools and academies have some form of budget tool that automatically extrapolates the data across 3 years, unfortunately, in many cases, the subsequent years may get some cursory attention that is focused on the bottom line but not much more. Many academies don’t start looking to complete the next year’s budget until they must - often because there is a looming ESFA deadline.
So, A quick and dirty guide to completing your 18/19 budget:
Roll forward your 1718 data
Update your pupil numbers with your October Census data
If you do not have a budget tool that does it for you, update your funding streams to reflect the October Census data (assuming you’re lagged funded)
Update your staffing with your current structure – ensure you’ve done a full payroll reconciliation by staff member
Include all potential increments
Go through all non-staff expenditure line by line
Add or remove the cost of one off expenditure/projects
Review all additional income streams
Update your pension rates (if they’ve changed)
Try not to go into shock in the middle of the office when you see the bottom line!
Book time with the Principal and relevant stakeholders to go through your initial draft budget
Getting the foundations right are critical in having a strong and financially stable organisation and this is never more prevalent than in a Trust. With so many financial challenges facing the Education Sector and many Trusts pooling reserves or looking to do so, having next year’s budget much earlier, provides plenty of time to review both the individual budgets and the collated position. It gives time to direct the resources to support those schools where they have been unable to complete a balanced in year budget, to review why and put measures in place, if necessary, to ensure they do. It allows the Trust to strategically plan where reserves may be required and best utilised.
A Trust that doesn’t start looking at the 1819 budgets until the Summer term is left with little to no time to make an impact and can quickly find that their reserves dwindle to nothing or worse. In short, it forces them to be proactive rather than reactive.
So, once you have year end in your rearview mirror and the auditors are no more than a memory, dust off your budgeting skills and get to it, a new year awaits.
Author: Director, Tracy Dawson