School Finance 512: 2016-17 Budget

School Finance 512: 2016-17 Budget

With the 2016-17 Budget now available, we would like to give it some perspective by explaining our priorities in managing the funds entrusted to us by our students' parents. Singapore American School is a member-supported school, and all parents are members. You may wish to consult this year's Frequently Asked Questions about the budget, where you will find information about the background and specifics of the 2016-17 Budget, as well as definitions of budget-related terms.

Like any budget, the SAS budget can be divided into revenues and expenses. Our revenues come primarily from student fees such as the tuition, facility, and re-enrollment or application fees, and, for new K-12 students, the registration fee. Other income includes Summer Semester and elementary activities and athletics fees, earnings on working capital, and donations. Our main costs are always faculty and staff wages and benefits, and facilities maintenance and operations. Costs associated with classroom and technology resources, research and innovation initiatives, and communications, administration, and admissions needs are also expenses.

2016-17 Budget: Revenues

2016-17 Budget: Expenses

We have several priorities in deciding how to allocate the school's money. On one hand, we want SAS to provide an excellent education, one that gives every student the skills, knowledge, and strength of character necessary to thrive in the twenty-first century. On the other hand, we want to keep our fees competitive with other Foreign System Schools in Singapore, and we want to ensure the long-term financial health of the school. Put simply, we seek to achieve the school's strategic objectives without spending more than we can afford.

To provide an excellent education, we must hire excellent teachers. One aspect of attracting quality applicants is offering competitive salary and benefits packages. Each year we benchmark our teacher pay packages against those of similar schools in the region and worldwide. After several years of paying close attention to this area, we are pleased to have achieved a more fair and considered pay scale for our faculty, one that attracts top teachers and retains them once they are hired. In the 2016-17 budget, the cost of compensation and benefits for all employees at SAS represents 69 percent of operating expenses. For more information about SAS teachers, please read our December article on Faculty Demographics.

An excellent education also requires excellent programs, facilities, and resources. We plan carefully to meet the school's evolving needs in these areas, with our 10-year asset management plan a major part of this planning. This roadmap for future facilities projects includes ongoing maintenance and major renovation and construction projects. It helps us control costs, keep track of renewal cycles for everything from classroom carpets to entire buildings, and ensure that we avoid major fluctuations in workload or financing of facilities projects. It also ensures that we think long-term about the school's facilities needs, and allows us to incorporate innovative ideas into our capital initiatives.

On the cost management side, SAS fees must be competitive with those of other Foreign System Schools so that interested families are not discouraged by our price-tag. Five years ago, our fees were significantly higher than those of schools such as UWCSEA, Tanglin Trust School, and the Canadian School. Strict attention to keeping fee increases at or below 3.5 percent per year has since narrowed these differences; we now feel we are comparable to other highly respected international schools here. To maintain this parity, every year we determine our average cost of attendance for K-12 students. As with staff salaries, we then benchmark this average against similar international schools' fees, as seen below.

Singapore FSS School Fees Comparison (SGD, all fees and GST inclusive), 2015-16

Asian International School Fees Comparison (SGD), 2015-16

Worldwide International School Fees Comparison, 2015-16

Finally, we keep a close eye on other expenditures. In order to appropriately allocate our limited funds, requests for classroom materials and other program needs are carefully scrutinized and prioritized by divisional administration. Major costs such as large-scale program upgrades or school-wide purchases are thoroughly examined at the cabinet level. We always seek to balance short-term needs with long-term goals, such as maintaining strong reserves and planning for unexpected contingencies.

We hope you have found this explanation of the big picture around the 2016-17 budget helpful, and we encourage you to attend the Budget Presentation and State of the School Address on Monday, January 18, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. in the American Club's Colonial Room. If you have questions or comments about the new budget, or ideas for future finance articles, please let us know at We look forward to hearing from you.