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Building a Budget From Scratch: Public, Private Funds Fill the Pot

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As a public entity, City on a Hill's budget is an open book.

Business manager Ledyard McFadden even has bound copies of the school's financial statement and independent audit on hand for the asking.

Yet, surprising to Mr. McFadden, he has fielded only a handful of telephone inquiries about the mechanics of the school's budget, and no one has asked for the financial statement. "That amazes me," he says.

The reason, he figures, is that the public and parents focus most of their attention on the instructional side of newly established charter schools.

He knows this may change, though, as more educational entrepreneurs launch smaller, nimbler schools that have more control over their budgets.

Eighty-five percent of City on a Hill's $635,199 budget for the 1995-96 school year comes from public sources; the remaining 15 percent has been raised from the private sector.

The overwhelming majority of the public monies are state funds, which the school receives in quarterly payments. The school receives $7,008 per student from the state, for a total of $455,520.

It also receives $30,055 in federal funds, including $11,542 from the Title I compensatory-education program, $13,804 in health-protection funds, and $3,500 for special-education students. It will also receive $15,000, and up to an additional $10,000 for assessment activities, under a $800,000 federal charter school grant awarded to the state of Massachusetts.

City on a Hill has also raised $109,744 from private sources, nearly three times more than its initial projections. Although the staff had ambitious fund-raising goals, it budgeted a conservative estimate, only counting grants and gifts that had already been pledged.

Source of Private Funds

The private monies have come from foundations and corporations, the most recent a $20,000 grant from the Polaroid Foundation for the arts program.

City on a Hill also sends periodic direct-mail solicitations to 2,000 individuals. One recent letter notes that the school's public support doesn't cover start-up costs. "That is why we are turning to you," the letter said. "We are asking you to help us buy the tools to build this City on a Hill.

If you can underwrite a book ($50), chip in a computer ($2,000), or be a Leadership Pioneer, let us hear from you."

At the beginning of the school year, Mr. McFadden met with the teachers individually and as a group to identify broad spending priorities, such as whether to invest more funds in additional staff or in technology.

He hopes to involve students in the budget process as well. Such an approach "comes back around and makes school a better place; they will take more responsibility for the place and the equipment," he says.

Last fall, he gave the art club a $400 budget and sent students off to buy their own supplies. So far, so good. "The kids have really taken good care of the stuff," he says.

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