Parks and Recreation Operating Budgets and Cost Analysis

Parks and Recreation Operating Budgets and Cost Analysis

The maintenance operating budget can be a very useful tool for getting insights about emerging trends or conditions affecting your department. Examining the current operating budget can help develop more accurate future budgets and suggest changes to inefficient or undesirable workflow.
Without the appropriate recording and documenting, however, the operating budget can be a source of incomplete or misleading information. It may be hard to discern why cost variations are occurring.
A well-established operating budget and task documenting system give necessary data for cost and trend analysis. This data gives you answers for why the budget is off and sets the stage for creating solutions.

Developing a Cost Record System

Depending on the size of your program, an operating budget and accurate cost record system could be pretty complicated. But the system is built around these foundational components:

Estimating Costs

Creating a budget means understanding what maintenance work will cost for the year and how those costs are broken down.
Accurately estimating maintenance costs isn’t always easy--especially if you don’t have the data to back up your estimates.
If you don’t have historical cost information, is it wise to just make an educated guess?
Based on your experience, there’s a chance you could come up with a pretty decent ballpark figure--at least for a starting point. But, what if you are new to the department or your ballpark figure went way foul?
Investigating costs could mean reaching out to colleagues that have similar maintenance programs. These leaders could give you insights into labor and material costs. Another good source of data is maintenance equipment and materials suppliers. They can provide information about costs and equipment use time standards.
Ideally, you want to have (or set up) a workload/cost tracking system. This system allows you to collect and evaluate data to make more accurate budgeting estimates.

Collecting Data

Cost data needs to be directly related to work completed.
What data should be collected to help with cost accounting?
It starts by making sure there are separate cost figures for each function performed by the maintenance department. The cost should be broken down into each object or task. There should also be a functional classification while recording expenses. 
If cost records are kept for each facility or function, information needs to be collected about:

  • Each maintenance job
  • Time spent on the job
  • Size of the crew
  • Materials or supplies used

  Of course, an operating budget has other moving parts that need to be considered like salaries, employee benefits, and utility expenses.
Also, indirect costs like insurance, data processing, administrative salaries, and equipment/facility depreciation also factor into the operating budget.
Some resources and worksheets help calculate the direct and indirect costs. Depending on how your system is set up, this could include adding additional spreadsheets, worksheets, and calculations. 

Evaluating the Data

Once your cost estimates and tracking system are in place, you could start monitoring the data to see any discrepancies requiring immediate attention or cost control measures.
If you have an efficient way to collect and analyze data from crews, supervisors, and management, this can make your job much easier.
Both small and larger parks and recreation departments are finding software especially helpful for data collection and evaluation.
Maintenance workload and cost analysis software designed specifically for parks and recreation departments can track the data that’s most important for understanding the efficiency of your department.
When set up with your department’s unique needs in mind, this software becomes an invaluable resource for quickly analyzing your operating budget and making accurate changes to future budgets.