Articles Tagged with

fiscal stress

Education, Fiscal Health, K-12, Opinion

Is Public Education Facing a Fiscal Cliff?

How to Be Better Prepared to Make Difficult Decisions as COVID-Era Funding Dries Up

The K-12 public education sector is abuzz with speculation that we are approaching a “fiscal cliff” when it comes to federal funding of public school systems. Forbes Magazine reported months ago that “Federal COVID relief funds will be running out in 2024. A continuing baby bust will hit school enrollment numbers. There might be a recession coming (or not). All of these shifts will create pressure for school districts.”

If cuts are coming, and even wholesale elimination of certain line items, what does that mean for school districts already struggling to adequately fund instruction, recruit educators, and make the necessary investments to improve outcomes, reverse learning loss, and maximize gains in student achievement?

Of course, districts were not supposed to apply emergency federal COVID dollars toward permanent expenditures, such as hiring. But many did, and funding can be fungible regardless. The result many fear is that personnel layoffs are looming — at a time when educators and administrators are already feeling overworked and overwhelmed.

What we are urging our client partners to do is to maximize their use of available resources, data and technology to start planning for various scenarios today so that whatever lies ahead in terms of difficult decisions to be made, they can be approached with forethought, planning, preparation and the most amount of complete information possible.

Three Ways to Prepare for the Next Fiscal Crisis Today to Minimize Pain and Disruption

Here are three things that superintendents, human resources professionals, educators and other district administrators can do today to plan for the uncertain future ahead:

1 – Try to identify opportunities to eliminate non-personnel expenditure redundancies.
Each passing year or so, without really thinking about it, professionals in every sector (the public and educational included) have incrementally added a tool here, an application there, a system here, a database there. We are now at the point at which enough has become more than enough — it’s become too much. Perhaps this is a time and opportunity to save costs by simplifying the administrative tech stack.

There are many reasons why you might want to simplify your tech stack, even if predicted cuts somehow fail to materialize. The most obvious among them is to save time and administrative burden of managing, maintaining and accessing this number of disparate technology tools. Certainly, once you find yourself looking to save money facing budget cuts, consider eliminating systems that overlap with one another — or consider finding one singular system that can achieve multiple tasks at the same time — as one way to save money before considering layoffs.

2 – Create peer groups to cross-analyze how other districts in your region are spending/cutting comparatively to your own.
The future of planning and budgeting is something called “comparative analytics.” Put simply, comparative analytics refers to the process of examining your own organization’s data and performance against those of your peers and competitors to draw more informed conclusions and to make better decisions. It’s a methodology for avoiding one of the greatest perils to critical decision-making: thinking we have all of the information we need and omitting a potentially decision-changing data set.

If you can view your own historical data and forward-looking projections against those of neighboring entities with whom you may be competing, won’t you be able to make more confident decisions and more strategic allocations of time, treasure and talent? Anything less, and you’re making critical decisions in a vacuum. If budget cuts become necessary, work today to plan for a future that affords you the confidence that you’re making cuts strategically and not putting your district at a competitive disadvantage relative to your neighbors and peers.

3 – Nobody knows the future with certainty. Build scenarios and plan for multiple potential tomorrows.
With so much uncertainty persisting in the public education sector, plans and predictions are ever-changing and more dynamic than ever. Creating a budget or forecast and presuming it will stand the test of time is no longer a luxury administrators and financial leadership have in this day and age. Cumbersome and laborious spreadsheets that remain static while the world evolves around them no longer suffice — especially knowing that drastic change may soon be coming.

Tools like the Forecast Builder and Budget Builder allow planning to be done with multiple possible scenarios envisioned, which can evolve dynamically and instantly. As new inputs or updated data become available using publicly available data sources and API, braided with a district’s own proprietary data, plans and budgets can be fluid and reflective of up-to-the-minute realities.

The Only Constant Is Change

Whatever tomorrow holds, we recommend that school districts plan for it today. Even if the future is uncertain and undefined. The last three years have been a period of unprecedented volatility and incredible changes and external pressures put upon those in charge of educating the future of our country.

We managed to do our best to survive a global pandemic, we continue to manage the impact dramatic inflation and the toll it’s taken on our budgets, and now another challenge most certainly awaits.

But just as we did with the prior crisis facing public educators, we will do our best to provide as much support, guidance, resources and innovation as we can, so that every decision they make is data-driven.

Contact me to see how your school building or district can harness the power of data to improve literacy, numeracy and other educational outcomes.

Fiscal Health, Municipal, News, Press Releases

Introducing: Neighborhood Intel Block Analyzer

Munetrix’s Latest Suite of Apps Now Live for Premium Users

Munetrix recently announced the launch of its latest product suite: Neighborhood Intel: planning, analytics and reporting software for governments and public-sector partners.

The exciting new feature currently being rolled out to Premium subscribers is the Munetrix Neighborhood Intel Block Analyzer. This newly launched app aggregates, streamlines, desegregates and intuitively presents a holistic view of every community in the state—down to the census block level. 

Premium subscribers will see this new feature made live in the coming days, if they don’t already have access. If you would like a demo of the product’s capabilities, please reach out to your customer service representative.

Transparency users of Munetrix can access this powerful tool by upgrading to the Premium level. Contact to learn more. If you are unsure whether you are a Premium or Transparent subscriber, contact us and we would be happy to look into it for you.

The Block Analyzer tool is also available to those who aren’t yet Munetrix users. Contact us to request a demo or to schedule a consultation.

City planners and economic developers have been using the Neighborhood Intel Block Analyzer for years to:

  • Aggregate, streamline, desegregate and intuitively present a holistic view of every census block level in a community.
  • Analyze adjacencies in block groups to understand trends and identify opportunities to positively impact the community.
  • Identify where underserved populations exist to better plan for future growth and prosperity.
  • View trends and dynamics in real time via time series analysis.
  • Make better-informed decisions, more quickly, to improve and sustain the health of the community.

Look for Neighborhood Intel Block Analyzer to go live in your system soon. If you aren’t finding it, contact us to determine when you will see the upgrade!

Two Important Tools to Look Out For:

  1. Watch the replay of our recent, WEBINAR: How to Battle Inflation with Better Budgeting. This webinar focused on how inflation may impact your school district or municipality budget, featuring David Zin Chief Economist for the Senate Fiscal Agency, and Buzz Brown CEO of Munetrix. They each shared their insights on how the current rising inflation may impact the fiscal health of your school districts and municipalities. Also learn how different budgeting tools and techniques can help reduce fiscal stress across your organization.
  2. Save the date! December 1st, CVTRS/CIP: This will be here before you know it. It’s not too early to update your Debt schedule and other documents needed to process your CVTRS/CIP this fall. Details and registration information coming soon! Learn more about the CVTRS and CIP obligations and process here.

Please let us know if you have any questions about these announcements and resources, or contact us if you would like more information and a personal demo of the Neighborhood Intel Block Analyzer too.

Education, Fiscal Health, Municipal, Opinion

Has Inflation Made You Rethink and Retool Your Budget?

Persistent and historically high inflation is dramatically impacting municipalities nationwide, in some cases completely altering prior projections and forecasts. Some municipal leaders are finding it necessary to completely rethink and redraft their budgets in order to reflect the new realities. And if they’re forced to do things the old way, they’re also doubling down on time, resources and labor already expended to repeat work they thought was once complete. Munetrix can introduce you, your team and your processes to advanced technology and new methodologies that can inject greater confidence and flexibility into budgets and forecasts, even accounting for dynamic, ever-changing scenarios.

Education, Fiscal Health, Municipal, News, Opinion

Finally, it’s not the economy; unfortunately, it’s still the education void

By: Bob Kittle

If it ain’t one thing, it’s another. Perhaps not the best way to start a blog that is ultimately on education, but as the economy hums along (despite some potentially scary headwinds with the recent GM announcement) education is the nemesis that Michigan (or at least Detroit) can’t seem to conquer.

The Detroit Regional Chamber recently released its 2018-2019 State of the Region providing economic indicators and critical areas of improvement for its 11-county region plus Detroit. The report overall offered an upbeat outlook on the region’s progress in many sectors, but underscored the importance in addressing areas in which the region continues to lag – notably education. In a spot-on Detroit News column by Daniel Howes, the education void is so dark and vast, its challenges may temper many of the positive gains made in the region and the state for recent years.

The good news is that Detroit is outpacing the nation in growth in real gross domestic product (2.7 percent vs. 2.2 percent nationally) and per capita income (4.3 percent compared to 4.1 percent nationally). That can’t be overlooked. Nor can the fact that Detroit was second in the nation in growth of median home values between 2013 and 2017, increasing by 42.4 percent (Seattle was number one). The high cost of living on the East and West Coasts makes Detroit attractive—a plus for companies aiming to boost and cultivate tech talent.

But contradicting these positive indicators are critical areas where Detroit is missing out, notably extreme poverty, low metrics on community well-being, and stagnant population growth. Yet the most pressing issue is the mediocre status of Detroit’s educational attainment—which was actually below the national numbers in 2017.

Education, K-12, News

Cities & Schools Reach Crisis Point Due to States’ Low Economic Reserves

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (Many States Are Unprepared for Next Economic Downturn) caught my attention because it highlighted a key factor adding to the fiscal stress of municipalities and schools.  The article suggested that most states are unprepared for an inevitable economic downturn as they lack the necessary fiscal reserves or rainy-day funds to cushion the next financial blow, and, it’s already having a negative trickle-down effect.

Forced to do more with less since the last recession, cities and schools are continually struggling with reduced revenue sharing from their states while scrambling to meet the demands of unfunded mandates, retiree obligations, an aging infrastructure and even increased student testing. Add this to the anticipated silver tsunami caused by public sector retirements in the next decade, we see a myriad of local governments that are already stretched too thin and have reached a crisis point.

One of the most alarming things noted in the WSJ article was that some states appear to have little sense of urgency and limited tools to address these budgetary shortfalls. Forget crisis point—this dilemma will have far-reaching and long-term consequences for the populations served by those who gloss over the unavoidable hard truth and do nothing about it now.

Fiscal Health, Municipal, News, Opinion

Local Government Early Warning Indicators

There is no shortage of articles and white papers addressing the topic of “Local Government Early Warning Indicators.” However, very few offer a concise methodology to address the issue; and most don’t draw any meaningful recommendations to address the dynamics local governments face in today’s new normal.

According to an Alison Wiltshire paper, Developing Early Warning Systems: A Checklist, there are four elements of a people-centered Early Warning System. Why people-centered? Because the average person must be able to grasp the concepts of the message heeded. Mathematicians, researchers and academics are not the ones who will be dealing with a fiscal calamity as it unfolds. The concept of “early” indicates that one would want to understand the issue well in advance in order to act proactively.