EDITORIAL: Budgets need to be prompt, transparent and fair

Which scenario teaches children responsibility: buying them what they want when they ask for it or giving them a set allowance each week?

While teachers don’t need lessons on maturity or conserving money, the principle still applies.

This year, due to an unexpected drop in enrollment, the budget had to be redesigned at the last minute. So high school teachers didn’t know their budgets until mid-October.

We understand that enrollment fluctuates, but in previous years, teachers always received at least an estimate by the first day of school.

And while the extra month of waiting for exact numbers might not seem like a big deal, for some teachers, like head of the physical education department Michelle Myers, it is.

At the beginning of this year, she needed more supplies for growing P.E. classes. (See “Elective teachers grapple with budget changes following dip in enrollment.”) But since she didn’t know her budget, she had to scramble to get equipment, which isn’t cheap.

Head of high school Brooke Wells points out that if teachers need more money, they can always approach him.

But this solution shows the flaws in our current system. The purpose of budgeting is to provide a financial framework for teachers’ decision-making. If the process is done properly, teachers shouldn’t need more money than what they’re given.   

And if teachers do need more, does “approaching Wells if they need more money” mean that their budgets must be completely drained before teachers can request additional funding?  

We need more transparency and a better system of communication to prevent such issues from arising.

Fiscal year budget process papers used to be sent out by chief financial officers to notify department heads of their budgets for the following year.

Furthermore, regular budget updates were consistently released by former high school dean Daniel Neukom. These updated teachers on how much money they had spent and how much they had left.

So why have these methods of communication stopped?

Not only are they helpful for teachers to plan ahead, but they also teach students the importance of budgeting.

Students in charge of activities, such as Student Council officers and editors of the publications, should be part of the conversation. Learning to budget is part of learning to lead.

The school is taking steps in the right direction, though. Wells has asked teachers to estimate how much money teachers will need in January or February prior to the start of the next school year.

For many core classes such as English and history, this method works well. But for others such as Octagon and P.E., how should those teachers or students in charge know what they’ll need nine months before the next school year when they’re only halfway through the current one?

Prior knowledge of purchases will only get us so far. And for the Octagon, this hasn’t helped. We spend roughly $8000 on printing and mailing the print edition, but a mere eighth of this is paid for by our $1000 budget. Ad and sponsorship money goes straight toward printing costs.

The Medallion’s publishing costs, however, are paid for primarily by the school while their ad revenue pays for equipment and staffers’ journalism trip expenses.

The Octagon would like the same consideration.

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