This spring, many school boards are in the process of creating and finalizing a budget for the 2020-21 school year. This work is largely taking place via Zoom and other online meeting platforms. District leaders and board members should work to maintain transparency around the budgeting process, while speaking to how the district is planning based on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Your stakeholders may have a number of questions about how this process will work. Be ready to field and answer the following:
- Has COVID-19 changed the district’s financial outlook? If so, how?
- How can community members provide input into the budget process from a distance?
- How is the district planning for the possibility for schools remaining closed for a period next school year? How would that affect the budget?
- In these difficult times, will the district be tightening its belt and reducing costs over the next school year?
Will the district avoid raising property taxes, considering that so many people are out of work or struggling financially right now?
What to communicate
Below are some sample messages you can use to proactively communicate with families, staff members and community members about the district’s budget process:
- While schools remain closed, district administration and the school board are continuing efforts to create and finalize a budget for the 2020-21 school year. By law, this process must be completed by May 15 (or whichever date is relevant to your district).
- We are using Zoom to meet virtually and discuss the district’s budget. These meetings are open to the public. (Note: Be sure to provide information on how community members can find meeting schedules, agendas and minutes, as well as how to access the meetings online.)
- Even though we will not meet in person, these budget meetings will be transparent and open to public comment. We encourage our community members to join us and make your voices heard during the public comment portion of the meetings.
- We will continue to make the most of every single dollar our taxpayers invest in their local schools. While these are uncertain times, we will move forward in a way that protects the investments of our taxpayers and maintains high-quality educational opportunities for our students.
The sample messages above provide you with a template as you move forward. The exact messages you use may vary depending on your district’s situation, your target audience and the questions you have received.
How to communicate
Now that you have some messages to work with, it’s time to determine how you will reach your stakeholders. Below are some of the most effective ways for communicating about the district budget with your school district community:
- Send an email to all district parents/guardians
- Send a memo to all district staff
- Distribute a news release to the local media
- Write and distribute a guest article from the superintendent or board president
- Post an update to social media
- Create a web page with information on how community members can connect to meetings via Zoom or other virtual platforms
We are certainly living in strange times, and processes like board meetings and district budgeting will need to be handled in new ways. Determining how these processes will work and communicating your approach as quickly as possible will help ease concerns in your community and ensure the budget process is as transparent as it always is.
Learn more and find free templates for communicating by visiting our Coronavirus Communication Resource page. If you would like further guidance on how you can best communicate about COVID-19 in your school or district, contact the Donovan Group.