Public bodies have an all-important duty to manage their finances responsibly. A new audit shows that the concerted effort by the Omaha Public Schools administration to focus on sound fiscal stewardship is paying off impressively.
OPS had budgeted $617 million for the year, but the district wound up spending $570 million.
The size of the savings came as a surprise, but the general fact that OPS came in under budget was a positive reflection on how Superintendent Cheryl Logan has carried out a focused, professional revamping of how the district manages its finances. That approach involved responsible analysis, going over the range of district contracts and budgetary line items.
A practical question often served as a guide: Is this particular spending item actually contributing to positive outcomes for OPS students? The rationale that “this is the way we’ve always done it” wasn’t good enough, Logan rightly insisted.
The district brought in a new chief financial officer this year, and a national consultant, expert in school finance, has done a wide-ranging analysis of the district’s finances and budgetary approach.
The budget savings will send the message to the Nebraska Legislature that — contrary to claims heard from some at the State Capitol — Nebraska’s largest school district is undertaking its budget duties with the utmost diligence. OPS residents also can be assured that the district — in the midst of managing large-scale, voter-approved bond projects — is managing its finances soundly.
As a follow-up, the district now needs to hone its budget-monitoring procedures over the course of the year so the OPS board can have a better up-to-date understanding of where the budget stands at particular points in time. Such an adjustment can be a worthy complement to the responsible budget practices now in place.