Board changes way of budgeting

COLOMA — Coloma Community Schools officials hope their new method of budgeting will create an academic return on investment.

The school board approved an agreement at its meeting Monday night with Donald Sovey, of School and Municipal Advisory Services, PC, to assist and facilitate the district’s transition to zero-based budgeting.

Superintendent Dave Ehlers said zero-based budgeting is a method of budgeting for the district in which all expenses must be justified.

“Right now we do roll-over budgeting, where we look at what I had last year and build off that, instead of working from the bottom,” he said. “This will build off what we need rather than what we had.”

Ehlers said this is a belt-tightening approach that will use data to help the district’s principals and administrators deploy its resources strategically.

“People tend to hoard what they had rather than looking for alternatives,” he said. “This will also cut down on officials trying to spend leftover money at the end of the school year.”

Ehlers said it also fits in with the district’s strategic plan.

“Hopefully with this we will see an academic return on investment,” he said. “Are we getting what we think we’re getting for what we’re spending? I don’t think we can really tell you that right now.”

Ehlers said Sovey will meet with all district officials at various times between July and December to guide them on how to budget this way.

Then, those officials will make formal budget presentations for their departments to the board in the spring. Those proposed budgets will then get narrowed down before the entire district’s 2020-21 budget is finalized and adopted in June.

Sara Ashley, director of business services, said she thinks this method of budgeting will be good for the district’s departments and principals.

“They don’t have that ownership right now,” she said. “I also think it’s the right way of (budgeting) because sometimes we might not catch stuff in the rollover that was just needed for one year.”

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