Superintendents and Fiscally Dependent School District Budget Approval

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Virginia Tech

Because the public school budgeting process is arguably the single most important process in a school district, the budgeting process is a leadership challenge for the Superintendent. This leadership challenge is even more pronounced in fiscally dependent school districts where the school board does not have the authority to tax and must obtain funding from the local governing board. In fiscally dependent school districts, superintendents must develop and guide the school district budget through two different boards with different responsibilities and interests: a school board focusing on the educational vision of the school district and a local governing board focusing on overall community needs and tax rates.

The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of fiscal dependence on superintendent leadership during the budget process. This multi-case study utilized Stake's (2006) multi-case analysis methods to determine findings from four cases selected using a stratified, purposeful sampling of school districts in Virginia, a fiscally dependent state. The analysis resulted in eleven findings: 1) Superintendents guide school district budgets through the local government approval process. 2) The fiscally dependent method of school district funding in Virginia has a direct impact on the development of the school district budget. 3) The importance of education in a community influences the budget development process. 4) Personalities and relationships can be more important than budget processes and documents. 5) Limited local revenue has an impact on the budget development process. 6) An appointed school board increases the importance of the local governing board and influences the budget approval process. 7) The depth to which local government leaders look at the budget details influences the district budget development process. 8) Superintendents ensure frequent and ongoing dialogue with local government leaders. 9) Superintendents maintain good relationships with the local government leaders. 10) Superintendents have a good budget process and budget document. 11) Superintendents involve and engage the larger school community. This study has implications for superintendents that work in states with fiscally dependent school districts.

school district budget, fiscal dependence, Virginia, superintendent, superintendent roles, superintendent-board relations