Avoid These Common Budget-Cutting Mistakes

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This is an excerpt from a report by Barbara Heller, President of Heller and Heller Consulting: Well-known. Well known throughout the industry for her expertise in leading parks and recreation agencies and her commitment to innovation and best practices, Heller operates outside of the typical parks and recreation industry mindset. This report covers six key areas where parks and recreation agencies can become more efficient.

When cities and districts experience a serious budget problem, the immediate reaction from many finance staffs is to:

1. Freeze Hiring

This may be a necessity; however, there is another way to look at staffing. If you have underperforming employees, agencies should address those actions as soon as possible. Poor performers are a major cost, even though it doesn’t directly show up as a line item.

2. Suspend Travel and Training, Particularly out of State

This unilateral decision could hold back an agency. Rather than cutting in certain, less effective areas, this values every cost the same. Since a trip to one conference could be more important than some training program, cut the less effective practice.

3. Cut Budgets Unilaterally Across the Board by Five Percent, for Example

This is a common practice because some managers understand that budget cuts are likely on the way. This “padded” money is more of a game than a sound practice.

4. Delay or Eliminate Purchases Near the End of the Fiscal Year

This motivates agencies to spend earlier in the year. That doesn’t mean that you’ll be more efficient with your budget, it just means you’ll use it in the first few quarters. This is an ineffective way to shift spending.

Managing resources efficiently requires a systemic approach to leveraging resources. This includes methods of reviewing organizational expenses, review of organization structure, analysis of core and non-core businesses, lean practices, and measuring results.

Budgets are tight and staffs are thin these days. It’s important for parks and recreation agencies to make the most of the resources they have. It all starts with avoiding the common budget-cutting mistakes listed above.

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January 24, 2020
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