Budgeting is an essential part of running a charter school. From managing operating costs to forecasting cash flow, it can be a complex and challenging task. However, with the right knowledge and understanding of budgeting terminology, you can make informed decisions and set your school up for success.
In this blog post, we will explore 5 essential terms you need to know to create and manage your charter school budget.
Cashflow planning is a forecasting tool, updated monthly or quarterly, that includes costs and revenue. It allows you to track actual numbers versus what’s in the budget plan, making changes necessary to finish the year in good financial shape. By understanding your school’s cash position, you can ensure that there is enough money available to cover expenses as they arise. This approach also helps your school prepare for any unexpected expenses, such as equipment repairs or building maintenance.
Capital refers to the assets a charter school owns that have value and can be used to generate income or help the school grow. These assets can take different forms, including property, buildings, furniture, equipment, computers, textbooks, and other resources necessary for the school’s operations.
In accounting terms, capital is considered a long-term asset, as it is expected to provide value and benefit to the school over an extended period. Capital assets are different from operating expenses, which are shorter-term expenses incurred by the school in the course of its daily operations.
For a charter school, capital assets are essential for providing a safe and effective learning environment. School buildings, for example, are critical capital assets that provide a space for students to learn and teachers to teach. Other capital assets, such as computers, textbooks, and equipment, are necessary to support teaching and learning activities.
Operating costs are the expenses that a charter school incurs to operate. These costs include everything from salaries and benefits for teachers and staff to the cost of textbooks, learning management systems, equipment, and facilities.
In general, operating costs can be classified into two categories: fixed costs and variable costs. Fixed costs are those that remain relatively constant over time, regardless of the level of student enrollment, such as rent, utilities, and insurance. Variable costs, on the other hand, are those that vary depending on the level of student enrollment or usage, such as supplies and materials.
Your school can manage operating costs to ensure that you have enough funds to provide high-quality education and services to your students.
Overhead refers to the ongoing, general operating expenses and fees required to run a charter school that are not directly tied to specific goods or services. These expenses can include items such as rent or mortgage payments, utilities, insurance, property taxes, office supplies, and salaries and benefits for administrative staff. Overhead expenses can make up a significant portion of a school’s budget and can affect the availability of funds for other critical expenses such as educational programs, teacher salaries, and student support services.
Unlike direct expenses, which are tied to specific goods or services, overhead costs remain relatively constant over time. These expenses are typically predictable and recurring, making them important for charter schools when budgeting. Charter schools can manage their overhead costs by negotiating better deals with suppliers, finding more cost-effective ways to deliver administrative services, or adopting new technologies or processes that increase efficiency and reduce costs.
Marginal analysis is a decision-making tool used to determine the additional benefits and costs of a decision—whether the benefits gained outweigh the costs.
In the context of charter school budgeting, marginal analysis can help you make decisions about how to allocate resources effectively. For example, if your school is considering investing in a new educational program, you could use marginal analysis to weigh the potential benefits of the program against the additional costs it would require. They could evaluate the expected impact of the program on student outcomes, such as academic performance or engagement and compare it to the additional expenses incurred—such as hiring new staff or purchasing new materials.
Marginal analysis can also be used to optimize existing programs or processes. By evaluating the incremental costs and benefits of small changes or adjustments, charter schools can identify areas where they can increase efficiency, reduce waste, or improve outcomes.
Building a solid budget is a vital step when starting a new school. Over the past decade, we’ve reviewed thousands of charter school budgets and helped guide countless schools through their charter school financing processes. To help you achieve your goals, we’ve put together this informative and thorough guide to share best practices and call out common pitfalls to avoid.
Download it for free and get tips for:
• Planning for long-term financial health
• Implementing best practices for achieving buy-in and setting internal controls
• Understanding key financial metrics to watch
• Utilizing tips on cashflow planning
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Since the company’s inception in 2006, Charter School Capital has been committed to the success of charter schools. We help schools access, leverage, and sustain the resources charter schools need to thrive, allowing them to focus on what matters most – educating students. Our depth of experience working with charter school leaders and our knowledge of how to address charter school financial and operational needs have allowed us to provide over $1.8 billion in support of 600 charter schools that have educated over 1,027,000 students across the country. For more information on how we can support your charter school, contact us. We’d love to work with you!