Catholic School Matters

November 3, 2019

Finance Best Practices

As schools begin to get a handle on this year’s budget realities, they must begin planning for next year. Many of our schools are being led by educationally-trained leaders who need help understanding the function of their finance offices, their role as supervisor, and the role of their Finance Councils. In addition, some finance officers don’t necessarily understand the best practices of schools and even some members of the Finance Councils don’t understand their roles. It’s a simple but elusive question—what are the best financial practices of effective Catholic schools?

So I set out to explore this idea with the National Standards and Benchmarks Guru, Tom Kiely of Marquette University. We set out to establish the best practices of the three levels of financial operations (finance officers, school leaders, and finance councils) as well as the budgeting process. And then we set out to develop a FAQ of financial questions that swirl around most Catholic schools. We’ve put this together into an article which will be published this year in Momentum.

Then we realized that we should talk about these issues in a podcast so Tom and I are talking about financial best practices this week on the Catholic School Matters podcast.

As a preview of both the article and the podcast, here are the five reports we recommend that every school generate every month:

1. Calculated ACE (Actual Cost of Education) based on expenses divided by enrollment. The ACE number will change based on enrollment and expenses.

2. Monthly profit and loss reports based on the annual budget.

3. Monthly balance sheet

4. Monthly cash flow reports. The school’s performance measured against the projected cash flow should be maintained. By cash flow, we mean that a monthly expense and income forecast should be constructed at the beginning of the fiscal year projecting the income and expenses. Every month, actual income and receipts should be measured against that cash flow projection.

5. Monthly income reports including tuition collected and billed as well as fundraising reports.

These reports may seem onerous but are necessary to best operational practices and they need to be generated by the finance office. A high functioning finance office pays attention to the daily tasks, the controls and processes, and the monthly reports necessary for the principal and finance council to carry out their oversight.

Our hope is that this brief blog, the podcast, and the ensuing Momentum article will provide school leaders with resources to improve your understanding and management of your school finances.

Want to keep up with the conversations surrounding Catholic education? Set up your own Google Alert, subscribe to this newsletter by clicking "follow," subscribe to the Catholic Schools Daily, or subscribe to the Catholic School Matters podcast.

Dr. Tim Uhl

Big picture

Case Studies Ripped from the Headlines

In this section, I present a Catholic school controversy in the headlines. I don't mean to single out one school or criticize its leaders. I want to present the story and offer you a few questions to consider in case this controversy lands on your desk this year. I encourage you to look at the particulars of the situation to understand the intricacies of the controversy.

In the news recently are a few cases of crimes involving lay Catholic school teachers. For example:

Often schools fail to monitor their employees because they trust they are good people with good intentions. They fail to imagine the ways that employees can break their trust. Are you monitoring your employees and ensuring that all Safe Environment policies are being followed? If a suspected violation occurred, how would you proceed? And if a suspected violation proved correct, how would you handle it? The best time to plan for a crisis is before it begins.

American Catholic News

Leadership Links

Teaching & Learning


What I'm Up To

This week we welcome Mary Beth Mueller back to Montana for our Butte Central accreditation revisit. I'll be heading to Great Falls for a couple of meetings, then to Butte for the revisit (and Virtual Admin meetings) and spending the rest of the week in and around the office.

This week on the Catholic School Matters podcast I have a long-form conversation with Tom Kiely of Marquette University about financial best practices in our Catholic schools. We discuss the need for understanding the roles and functions of the finance office, the role of the school leader, and the function of the Finance Council as well as the need to develop good reports to feed the budgeting process.

Here is the link to the podcast. Here are videos showing you how to download and subscribe to a podcast on Apple podcasts and how to download and subscribe a podcast on Android.

  • Monday: Great Falls meetings
  • Tuesday: Virtual Admin Meetings (9 am and 1 pm) from Butte, America
  • Wednesday: Great Falls & Helena meetings
  • Thursday: Office (Helena)
  • Friday: Office (Helena)

Miles this week: 538 driving miles

Miles travelled in 2019-20: 15,827 road miles; 24,002 air miles

Last 5 Books

    1. The Sermon on the Mount and Moral Theology (2017) by William C. Mattison III
    2. Standing for Reason: The University in a Dogmatic Age (2019) by John Sexton
    3. Talking to Strangers (2019) by Malcolm Gladwell

    4. Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus (2019) by Jim Wallis

    5. This Will Make You Smarter (2012) Ed. by John Brockman

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            For Montana Administrators & Teachers

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            Oct 27, 2019 "Blaine Amendments"

            Oct 20, 2019 "Community & Belongingness"

            Oct 13, 2019 Sr. Angie's Lawlapalooze

            Oct 6, 2019 "River of Fire"

            Sep 29, 2019 "Male and Female He Created Them"

            Sep 22, 2019 "Surveying Catholic Culture"

            Sep 15, 2019 "New Catholic Schools"

            Sep 8, 2019 "The Mustard Seed Project"