Briefing on the budget By Vincent Niewald

Budgeting and funding plays an important role in the management and employment of a high school such as Bellevue East. According to the nonprofit research organization Urban Institute, “… school district funding is about as progressive today, on average, as it was in 1995. In most states, progressivity has changed only slightly. More states experienced an increase in progressivity than a decrease.” A member of BPS’s financial team believes that funding for public schools isn’t what it used to be.

“In my opinion, education overall is underfunded by the State of Nebraska,” Bellevue Public Schools Fiscal Affairs Director Susan Brooks said. “The State has decreased its support of schools over the past ten years, and that has shifted the burden to taxpayers. It is always my goal to meet needs in schools, and we have to be careful to pick and choose what we do, since the funding is inadequate to support all needs.”

      The duties of fiscal director are numerous. They are in charge of financials for the entirety of Bellevue Public Schools. They are the ones who have to deal with nearly everything relating to money or funding through the entire district. 

      “At BPS, the Director of Fiscal Affairs oversees the Finance Department, including payroll (twice a month for 1500+ employees), benefits administration, accounts receivable, accounts payable, and grants management,“ Brooks said. “These pieces of our operations are handled by a team of 5 talented specialists, who I supervise.”

Bellevue Public School’s director of fiscal affairs is the person in charge of forming and developing the overall budget for BPS. They are also the one in charge of all of the district’s funds and financial functions.

“I am also primarily responsible for all the financial reporting for the district, including the annual audit, single federal audit, annual financial report to the state, and the SPED final financial to the state.  All of these reporting mechanisms are critical as they directly lead to our funding, or lack thereof.”

          Another thing to consider is the various departments within the school, and the money used by each of these departments. According to information provided by Principal Jeff Wagner, Athletics were given about 24% of Bellevue East’s total budget, the second largest section of the budget, beaten by ‘Instructional Supplies’ 33%. 

Additionally, special departments received 14.5%, general classroom supply received 6%, and general repair and maintenance got 5.7%. Library services got 5.5%, student activities and professional supplies both got 4%, and field trips were allocated 3.5%. Though these numbers are fairly consistent with last year, there were some minor changes, percentage wise.

      “Every department has a list of things they believe every student needs to implement their curricular activities successfully.” science department head Bruce Bartholow said. “Moreover, we all have wish lists of things that may be more expensive or are considered luxury items that would enhance our teacher-learner activities. These may not be used by the majority of our students or may be used only during special topics in our curriculum.  We go into the budgeting process understanding that current economic realities may preclude us from obtaining those wish list items on a year to year basis, if ever,”

     There are many ins and outs to such a complicated field. Some people choose to spend their entire lives in it, and some one dabble in it when they have to. Though the situation seems confusing, there is a simple way to describe it all. 

      “Nebraska has excellent public schools overall, but our legislators largely take this for granted and constantly try to shift funding away from metro area schools, where 90% of the students are in this state.  I have been in school finance for 18 years, and I am frustrated with the constant battle,” Brooks said.