Budgeting Basics

Budgeting time, money and resources for facility maintenance and repair is no simple task. College and university personnel responsible for this undertaking spend hours analyzing past data, reviewing strategic plans and talking with vendors and personnel in many areas to establish budgets that meet projected needs while also providing for unforeseen circumstances.

There are many recommendations when it comes to creating a successful annual budget, but two stand out: planning and anticipating the unexpected.

Know the Plan

Casey Wick is assistant director for Custodial Services at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. The college has an enrollment of approximately 1,700 students and a facility inventory of 110 buildings encompassing 1.9 million gross square feet.

“Individuals responsible for facility maintenance must be familiar with the institution’s strategic plan to know where things are going,” he says.“Changes to the building inventory will dramatically impact the personnel, equipment and financial resources needed for facility maintenance.”

Wick says that Hamilton is in the midst of a significant building program, which obviously requires a change in maintenance needs.“We recently opened a new science building and athletic facility, and another building will open in 2007,” he says. “We are able to budget accordingly because we knew about the buildings well in advance of their completion. Changing filters and light bulbs, and the staff required for maintaining the buildings, are only three of the many areas we had to consider when developing our budget.”

Wick says that having an established budgeting process is necessary. Hamilton has a 10-week process that begins at approximately the same time each year. Wick identified these seven major areas as part of the budget.

• Labor: Include data for changes to baseline full- and part-time employees.
• Contracts: Evaluate contractual changes, including wages and overtime.
• Special projects: Renovations, in particular.
• Consultant requirements: Tasks that can’t be done in-house.
• Materials: Anticipate price increases for materials such as paper products; provide for equipment in new buildings and the accompanying maintenance needs.
• Outsourcing services: Identify changes, budget increases to contracts and/or needs.
• Contingency: Plan for the unexpected and/or higher-than-normal expenditures.

Finally, Wick says that facility managers must often use past history as a guide. “Snow removal, as one example, is one area that’s hard to anticipate,” he says. “We may spend a lot one year and relatively little the next, depending on how much it snows. We budget based on an average so that we don’t take a huge budget hit if it snows more than normal one year.”

Partner for Success

UNICCO Service Company is a full-service provider of management and facility maintenance services for numerous clients, including colleges and universities. Vincent Troisi, senior director, Technical Services, says that service providers must be fully engaged with college and university facility management personnel to help them achieve success.

“The partnerships that we develop with our clients are critical to helping them budget the time and financial and personnel resources that are needed for facility management,” he says. “We must communicate extensively to ensure that we facilitate decision making and that we move both the budget process and daily work along in a timely manner.”

UNICCO uses a host of tools to keep communication open and ongoing. These include a Web-based portal for collaboration and document access. Individual and group meetings as required further enhance communications.

“Helping our clients to build the budget from the bottom up is very important,” says Troisi. “It’s our job to help them identify requirements for many needs, including deferred maintenance and personnel, and to allocate those needs to a specific task.”

One area that can cause problems is forgetting about infrastructure needs, especially those behind the wall. Troisi says that it’s important to think about the efficiency of wiring, as one example, which is especially true when it comes to older buildings. Upgrades to accommodate new technology, or simply fixing wiring that may have aged, adds to the bottom line. Again, familiarity with the plan and what may be added to or changed in a building helps to budget accordingly when it comes to expenses and personnel resources.

Troisi, like Wick, believes that it’s critical to plan for unforeseen circumstances. “Draining and refilling the hot water in a piping system adds expense,” he says. “Day cleaning verses cleaning at night, or having to pay overtime to clean a building because there is an excessive need can significantly increase expenditures. You must have a contingency that will help when the unexpected occurs. It’s great if it’s not used, but it’s a problem if additional financial or personnel resources aren’t available when there’s a major need.”