For K-12 school districts in North America, there are few balancing acts more important — or more challenging — than finances.
Part of the problem is that attempting to manually create a school budget is a logistical nightmare. Between asset management, payroll, infrastructure, technology spend, and student payments, there are simply too many moving parts. Keeping track of everything through spreadsheets and physical documents verges on impossible.
That’s where financial management software comes in. By deploying a platform designed for the accounting challenges of K-12 education, school districts not only reduce the administrative burden of budget management but also gain real-time visibility into every facet of their finances. This in turn gives them the capacity to make better financial decisions overall.
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Finance software in education streamlines a school district’s accounting processes and workflows. It provides the district with full visibility into and control over its finances while simplifying and automating everything from vendor transactions to employee expense claims. Financial management software also enables a district to seamlessly produce reports on various facets of its budget.
The main objective of a financial management system is to help school districts maximize their budget and direct their spending where it will do the most good for both students and faculty.
A financial management system allows a school district to modernize how it transfers, allocates, and tracks funds in its budget. It consolidates all critical accounting functionality into a single platform, reducing a district’s reliance on third-party integrations. Said functionality may include:
Although there are many different financial management systems on the market, we recommend choosing one that’s purpose-built for the education sector. Software platforms intended for other industries may not integrate readily with student information systems. They are also unlikely to account for the changing regulatory requirements and challenges of a typical school district.
There’s no denying the many benefits available when looking for the best school accounting software.
But what separates the best school accounting software from other solutions on the market? Here are a few of the biggest benefits.
A financial management system breaks down the communication silos that typically plague budget management, particularly between schools and administration.It enhances data connectivity across multiple departments, greatly improving operational efficiency by ensuring all stakeholders have access to the financial information they require.
By eliminating manual accounting processes, a financial management system streamlines and expedites everything from purchase orders to requisitions and expense reports. With automated purchasing workflows, school districts can unlock potential discounts by paying invoices immediately.
Better Process Management
With real-time notifications and automated approvals, a financial management system streamlines accounting on both sides of the office. Employees gain access to better expense tracking through a self-service portal, whilst administration can spend more time planning and optimizing their budget.
Data-Driven Budget Planning
The analytics functionality present in a financial management system allows school districts to eliminate bottlenecks, identify new optimization opportunities, and address any unnecessary or wasted spend. Configurable and searchable asset classes, transactions, and G/L groups provide even deeper insights into a district’s budget.
A Streamlined Payroll Process
Payroll is frequently one of the most complicated aspects of budget management. With a financial management system, this is no longer the case. School districts can seamlessly manage pay calendars, salary grids, and overtime through integration with payroll software, automatically wrapping all of this data into the overall budget.
Improved Student Accounting
Combined with a student information system, a financial management system has the potential to significantly improve the student experience, enabling seamless online payments for school fees. Said fees can be automatically calculated based on a predefined fee structure, while discounts and reimbursements can also be fully automated.
Seamless Jurisdictional Compliance
Where compliance is concerned, school districts face a challenging landscape defined by constantly changing regulations. A purpose-built financial management system helps districts stay on top of these requirements through automatic updates and real-time notifications.
Transparency and Accountability
A modern financial management system features an intuitive dashboard designed to give a high-level view of a district’s finances, with the capacity to drill down to individual assets and transactions. This ensures full cycle transparency, ultimately resulting in smarter spending.
Reduced Administrative Workload
The back-office burden of manual accounting processes cannot be understated. They are a colossal time-sink while also producing a great deal of paper waste. Deploying a financial management system functionally eliminates this burden, improving sustainability in the process.
Even a minimal accounting error has the potential to carry a massive price tag, and the immense complexity of a school district’s finances lends itself all too well to mistakes. A financial management system considerably reduces the risk of such a mistake, both through automation and streamlining your overall financial processes.
An estimated 75% of accounting tasks can be automated through cloud software. With that said, if you’re using an off-the-shelf solution not purpose-built for the needs of school districts, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to achieve that figure. Nor can you be certain you’re getting value for your money.
Before you start looking for a solution, you need to make sure you understand your school district’s accounting needs — both immediately and in the future. Factors to consider include:
With all that out of the way, K-12 accounting software should have the following features:
While an on-premises system might work well enough for traditional workplaces, school districts are anything but. Your district likely needs to handle a significant amount of its accounting outside regular school hours and outside regular business hours. In lieu of forcing accountants and administrators to stay late at the office, it’s far better that they have the ability to securely access financial data wherever and whenever necessary.
Many school districts struggle with a bloated technology stack comprising multiple disparate solutions. The first step in retiring this outdated infrastructure is embracing solutions designed with integration.
School districts typically need a great deal more flexibility in their financial management systems compared to businesses operating in other sectors. They need the capacity to quickly create, transmit, and amend invoices. Moreover, they require a platform that supports split fee billing, particularly if they collect fees from parents.
As mentioned earlier, your school district faces a number of complex auditing and regulatory requirements, many of which change year over year. A good financial management platform is built with these requirements in mind.
It’s imperative that every stakeholder in your district is kept up to date about its budget. The problem is that not everyone has the background or training to understand traditional financial reports. A good financial management system accounts for this, offering the ability to easily visualize spend and share reports with anyone that needs to see them.
Built-in Vendor Engagement
Many people forget that the vendor is as much a part of the client experience as the software that the vendor offers. Even a financial management system that looks incredible on paper might fall short if the vendor offers little to nothing in the way of customer and technical support.
It should go without saying that any platform you use to manage your school’s budget and finances must also be highly secure. Before you commit to a vendor, ask them about their security policy, specifically how they’ll manage your financial data.
Budget management is one of the most important undertakings facing any school district, but it’s also one rife with challenges. The right financial management system goes a long way toward addressing those challenges. That’s where Edsembli comes in.
Edsembli | FIN arms you with a robust, all-in-one financial management solution that allows you to truly take charge of your budget. Features and benefits include:
Contact an Edsembli specialist today and book a demo to learn how Edsembli | FIN can help you reimagine financial productivity and optimize your school district’s budget.
Interested in trying Edsembli? Book a demo today.