How School Systems Can Stretch Their Budget

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Dealing with increasingly smaller budgets is becoming a habit for British school systems. The Institute for Fiscal Studies says schools in England will have less money to spend on a per pupil basis over the next half decade, as the Department of Education has been hit with funding cuts in the hundreds of millions of pounds. Sadly, in the effort to reduce the deficit, education spending is often a favoured target and even “small budgetary reductions,” when taken across the board, can take a toll.

Rather than allow curricula, professional development and the integration of technology to suffer, school officials are instead banding together to find ways to stretch their budgets in creative and innovative ways. The trick is to find resources and practices that don’t end up costing more in the long run than originally planned. Businesses, especially small businesses, often fall victim to poor financial planning in this same way.


Related Article: 4 Reasons Schools Should USe Asset Tracking

For example, Education Week highlighted a conference held by the Association of School Business Officials International recently, where district representatives met to discuss strategic finance planning and how the costs of supposedly free digital resources can unexpectedly balloon: One common-core curriculum, EngageNY (downloaded 20 million times by educators around the world), ended up spiking printing costs when teachers printed the arts/literacy and math materials en masse, requiring some to apply for state textbook aid to cover the charges.

When it comes to budget planning, one of the most overlooked practices in the business world is asset management. While assets can refer to both inventory and fixed assets for businesses, for schools this means fixed assets: The long-term, mainly tangible pieces of property that businesses use to produce income and schools use to produce an education, they include computers, printers, vehicles as well as buildings.

In the past, schools and businesses alike used manual processes to track the purchase, maintenance and disposal of their fixed assets, spreadsheets reigned supreme. While refraining from an investment in automated software may seem like a prudent financial decision in the short-term, manual processes are too error-prone and cost-inefficient to be profitable for long.

Automated asset management helps organizations understand the cost of their assets both up front and over the course of its “useful life,” the amount of time it must be kept on the books and utilized. For schools, this is especially important, as future budgets are never promised and current assets must be kept in working condition as long as originally predicted (if not longer).

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While many schools recognize the importance of producing asset managers, the perks of utilizing automated management software (as opposed to using a manual system to keeping track of all purchases) in-house are not obvious to all. Even small businesses rarely value investing in internal tools like asset management systems when considering new avenues of revenue growth and savings. The benefits, however, are numerous:

Knowing where your assets are

The most essential perk of automated asset management is that it tracks where your assets are located. Many schools don’t have the luxury of an excess of assets (such as computers or vehicles), so a centralized database that traces when and where assets are checked in or out is imperative to minimizing shrinkage due to assets being lost or stolen. A quality system can also track less obvious (but still costly to replace) assets, such as athletic gear and books.

Recognizing the state and status of your assets

Though assets are purchased with the intent of long-term use, they tend to break down and go through wear and tear over time. Quality asset management systems can track physical depreciation, helping schedule needed maintenance or alerting schools of expiring warranties. This can affect classrooms if a computer breaks and the last person to use it forgets to alert others, leaving the next teacher (who may have needed that computer to present a project or otherwise conduct class) high and dry.

Staying on top of accounting issues

Depreciation also refers to the asset losing its book value as time goes on. The cost of assets is written off over the years, depending on the depreciation method chosen. Examples of different depreciation methods include straight line, declining balance and sum of the years digits, all of which depreciate the asset at varying speeds. Staying in compliance keeps schools eligible for grants and other forms of much-needed funds.

Removing ghost assets from the ledger

A “ghost asset” is a fixed asset that appears on the books but can’t be accounted for, either because it is physically missing or has been rendered unusable. Obviously, teachers can ill afford to plan on using an asset (for a classroom presentation or field trip), only to be left in the lurch. Ghost assets are often created as the result of unrecorded trade-ins, or when parts of machines are taken to fix broken units. When tracking is automated, the possibilities for ghost assets are eliminated.

Making audits less time- and resource-consuming

Even with an automated system, it’s common to undergo a physical audit of assets at least once a year. Updating records, including location changes, transfers of responsibility, additions and subtractions of total equipment and more, can be arduous and time-consuming, not to mention riddled with errors. Spreadsheets and manual calculations are often inaccurate, leading to ghost assets and other issues throughout the rest of the year (and only exacerbated when records are updated in between audits). Let teachers and officials focus on students rather than busywork.


Cutting programs and defunding departments should be the last resort for making up budget shortfalls,


Cutting programs and defunding departments should be the last resort for making up budget shortfalls, not the first step. Additionally, trying to cut corners by using “free” resources may not be as cost-effective as it first appears in the long run. Turning to an asset management system based on technology as effective and inexpensive as barcodes (a barcode printer and scanner or smartphone can be the first step to creating a comprehensive system) may save schools the money they need to build a well-rounded curriculum, despite decreasing government aid.

How your your school start saving money by tracking expensive assets with a dedicated asset tracking system?

Jason Sentell

Jason Sentell

Product Marketing Manager at Wasp Barcode
Jason Sentell is a Product Marketing Manager, responsible for development and execution of Wasp's product marketing strategy.
Jason Sentell
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