ICYMI: ESSA site-based reporting

By David Norman
David Norman is assistant principal of student services at St. Charles CUSD 303. He participated in the Ed Admin Intern program at the 2018 Joint Annual Conference.

Presented by Stacey Mallek, Assistant Superintendent for Business/CSBO, Arlington Heights School District 25 and Jan Bush, Business Manager, Murphysboro Community Unit School District 186

Under the new federal Every Student Succeed s Act (ESSA), school districts must report their per-pupil expenditures at the school level, including allocation of central expenditures and the disaggregation of funds by source. The purpose of site-based expenditure reporting is to: inform local-decision making, meet the federal requirements, ensure ongoing appropriate resource allocation, and offer accessibility of finances to stakeholders.

The framework for calculating the site-based expenditure is (Site-Level Expenditures + Site’s Share of District Centralized Expenditures) / Number of School Site Students. The site level expenditures include the staff assigned to the building as well as building budget line items. This sum of all the building site-based budget should align with the district total expenditures in their budget. A number of funds are excluded from this calculation, including Debt Service, Capital Projects, Working Cash, and Life Safety. In addition Capital Outlay (except for Fund 10) is excluded, as are the following budgetary functions: Payments to Charter Schools, Adult/ Continuing Education, Community Services, and payments to other government agencies.

One of the more important outcomes of the site-based reporting is the ability to centrally locate the resources within a school district. In following this process, a district can determine cost allocation of an entire building in regards to staff, students with individualized education plans, transportation, etc. In addition, the facility usage and costs can help districts identify areas where cost-saving measures might be applicable.

Factors that impact resource allocation in buildings is the experience of the staff and education level, specific building program needs, building class size, student demographics, and other building needs. Each of these factors can contribute to a resource allocation that to the public could look inequitable. As a district, it is important to understand how these factors specifically impact the resource allocation so that you can appropriately communicate with stakeholders the story behind the numbers.

Arlington Heights District 25 has chosen to allocate resources by identifying site-specific resources and centrally allocated resources. Site-specific resources include such line items as staff salaries, food service, and transportation. Centrally allocated resources include things like central office staff, special education out-of-district tuition, and special education transportation. District 186 follows a similar structure. In District 186, site-specific resources include supplies and utilities in addition to components that District 25 uses, while centrally allocation resources include special education transportation costs within the cooperative.

Throughout this process it is important for districts to prepare for the transition by understanding the cost of each site with the factors that are important to the district. Districts should prepare site-based budgeting/ accounting followed by the determination of centralized expenditures and resource allocation. Finally, districts should understand what their numbers are telling them. Preparation is key, and through this preparation districts will be able to predict and adjust the budget as necessary and produce a clear message to stakeholders of fiscal responsibility

Editor’s Note

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) is a new feature in Journal, sharing panel reports from the 2018 Joint Annual Conference. Reporters are participants in the Educational Administration Intern program.