Five years after the last print edition was published, the Illinois Association of School Boards has published an updated edition of its top-selling book, Essentials of Illinois School Finance.
Sub-titled “A Guide to Techniques, Issues, and Resources,” the book was originally designed as a training manual and desk-top reference for school business managers and budget makers. While it still serves that role, the book also provides an effective reference for anyone who needs to understand the basics of public school finance.
A lot has changed since 2012. The book had been on a two-year publication cycle since its inception in 2002. However, the state budget impasse and the political deadlock that has yet to be resolved forced IASB to withhold publication in 2014. When the passing months evolved into more than a year, it was decided to re-format the book into an “e-book,” which was released in February 2016.
“We had hoped that an electronic version would enable readers to catch up with the current data and allow us to update it quickly, if or when the state legislature resolved its budget issues,” said James Russell, IASB associate executive director. “Unfortunately, that never happened. So, we decided to publish the book again in its traditional print format. It is now current with all state funding data, regulations, and laws through July 2016.”
From the peculiarities of Illinois property taxes and state funding to the formulas for projecting enrollments and staffing budgets, this book covers just about everything — and does it in plain English. Other features include a chapter on the role of school board policy in maintaining fiscal health (which is also addressed in the Foreword) and a detailed alphabetical index.
The author, James B. Fritts, is a retired public school business official who also has taught school administrators at Northeastern Illinois University and Loyola University of Chicago. In addition to his own experiences and those of numerous students and colleagues, Fritts calls on a wide array of sources with expertise in state funding, property tax administration, and virtually all aspects of school business management.
As it has in previous editions, the first part of the book deals with revenue — where schools get it, how they maximize it, protect it, manage it, and plan for it. The second half of the book addresses expenditures — how schools budget for them, reduce them, and make plans to deal with them. Together, the two sections provide a solid base for financial management and long-range planning.
A special chapter at the end examines the many standards for school finance and business management that need to be established by action of the local governing board. Topics examined include maintaining reserves through fund balance policies, as well as standards for financial reporting, budget development, bidding and purchasing, internal checks and balances, student activity funds, audits, bonding of the treasurer, the selection of banking services, and protecting physical facilities.
This book is essential for school administrators, school board members, university education administration students, vendors, and any organization that works with or is impacted by public school finances.
Essentials of Illinois School Finance is available from the IASB online bookstore or by calling 217/528-9688, ext. 1108. The price remains unchanged: $35, or $25 for IASB members, plus $7 per order for shipping, regardless of the quantity ordered.