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Ehlers Budget Projection Model
A Management Tool for Minnesota School Districts
Ehlers offers a Budget Projection Model for Minnesota school districts.
One of the key elements of effective financial planning and management is the ability to estimate the impact of financial decisions on the district’s operating budget for multiple years. Our clients have often expressed frustration with the difficulty of doing accurate budget projections, and have asked for our assistance. In response, we invested significant resources developing a new Model that we believe will meet our clients’ needs. Our goal was to develop a Model that is both comprehensive and easy to use. It is intended to be a management tool enhancing the decision making of the administration and school board.
The Model was developed by four Ehlers municipal advisors with a combined total experience of more than 80 years as school business officials.
The model creates a picture of a district’s financial condition, allowing you to measure the impact on your budget of major decisions including:
- Cost containment adjustments (budget cuts)
- Program addition/expansion
- Construction of new schools additions
- Closing of schools
- Operating referendum or capital projects referendum
- Adjustments to local revenues such as student fees
Users are able to project the impact of each option or combination of options. For example, ways to interact with the model include:
- Setting the student/staff ratio or entering the number of licensed teaching staff to project expenditures for classroom teachers
- Setting inflationary assumptions to project expenditures
- Entering budget changes - additions or cuts - to project impact on future budgets
- Setting assumptions used for basic state aid, referendum revenue, and enrollment
Any change in projected enrollment will automatically affect both revenues and expenditures.
Enrollment Projection Model Included
An enrollment projection spreadsheet is included in the model, permitting the user to select from multiple options. MDE enrollment data is pre-loaded in the Model. If your district already has an enrollment projection model, you also have the option to use your own projections.
The UFARS chart of accounts has slight variations from district to district. Some consolidate object codes. Other districts may still account for transportation costs using Fund 03 and crosswalk the results to Fund 01. For this reason, the model includes an optional worksheet for Transportation. The model tracks reserved capital revenue including assigned fund balances, incorporating user-defined fields for revenues and expenditures. Because each district is unique, the model enables the user to modify line items, add line items, or modify formulas to fit individual needs.
The model can identify assigned fund balances, project future unassigned fund balances, and compare projected unassigned fund balances to a district-defined target fund balance. A graph depicts the five-year trend for this important information.
An executive summary is generated that includes multiple graphs, as well as a budget report by major source and object, detailed revenue and expenditure reports, and an analysis showing annual changes by major revenue and expenditure category. This is an excellent tool to quickly evaluate the reasonableness of a budget projection.
Each year, Ehlers will update the model to include any changes necessitated by state regulations, formula changes, or new legislation and will provide all updated and enhanced versions at no additional charge. A group training session is included, along with unlimited telephone support to answer questions on operating the model.