School Budgeting 101

Wes Dreyer offers the first of several columns in the Coffeyville Journal explaining the basics of school budgeting. Today’s installment: the general fund.

There are, he says, several factors that determine the amount of money in a district’s general fund.

The first is the number of students. Sounds simple: count the number of students, and the district gets $X per student. Except the way that it’s done is not so straightfoward. You might get a clue when the formulas refer not to students but to FTE–a full-time equivalent of a student.

In computing FTE, each student counts as one except for those students attending less than a full day and kindergarten students whom are counted as .5. If a district is declining in enrollment, then the district may use the prior year’’s enrollment or a three year average, as Coffeyville used this year.

There are extra factors included, so that the number of “FTE” students outnumbers the number of bodies by a significant amount. Each student is more financially valuable for larger districts (more than 1,662 students), since each student counts 1.02145 FTE. Small districts, meanwhile, get to tweak their formulas as well. There are many other “weightings,” related to transportation, special education, and other categories. All in all, the Journal is to be commended for laying out the basic facts of a complicated scheme.

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