A budget is the plan that puts dollar figures on the work you need and want to accomplish during the year. Use it as a guideline to help you allocate your resources in materials, equipment and labor hours most effectively.

Build your annual budget request based on a monthly forecast of your anticipated maintenance program. If your approved budget varies from your budget request, identify the changes and make revisions in your planning to accommodate them. As the year progresses, frequently compare your actual resource allocations with your monthly forecasts and make adjustments as needed. Note the variations and the reasons they occurred to help your future planning.

Know the territory

Break the turf areas into categories by turf type, soil profiles, irrigated and nonirrigated, lighted and non-lighted and usage.

Map out the irrigation systems and lighting systems. If you are responsible for maintenance of the bleachers, stadiums, concession stands, press boxes, restrooms and other structures, measure and map them. Also, measure and map out any retention ponds or other water sources.

Start with the maintenance plan

Develop a comprehensive maintenance plan based on the master facilities plan, past history and anticipated uses of the sites, and anticipated seasonal weather patterns. As sports field use and special event schedules are set up, plug them into the maintenance plan, making adjustments as necessary. Note any changes in field use programs, such as the addition of teams or an increase in participants, or an extension of the season with earlier start dates or later ending dates.

Review changing weather patterns and environmental conditions that might affect the program, such as drought conditions that lead to water use restrictions, and develop contingency plans.

Check costs

Check with suppliers to get up-to-date costs. Rising gas prices, and the shift in corn production from agricultural to fuel uses, have affected the cost of many materials. For example, urea prices have increased by 300 percent since 2006.

Transportation costs for the shipment of materials have also been increasing. This may show up in surcharges rather than a direct price increase. Review the charges on recent deliveries and compare them with negotiated contracts. Or, if shipments are handled by a different department, check with their personnel to determine how to adjust your budget.

Include fuel cost increases within your equipment operational budget, too. It will cost more to operate maintenance equipment such as mowers, tractors and aerifiers. If your crews travel from site to site, those transportation costs will need to be adjusted to reflect the increased costs.

Purchase adjustments

Review the size of your material purchases as well as the timing of your shipments. If you have adequate storage space, it may be more cost-effective to purchase larger quantities of frequently used items in one shipment. Check with your suppliers for quantity discounts or discounts for early-season shipments. Consider combining your orders with another department within your facility, or with a neighboring facility, to cut costs.

Take an inventory of your existing materials to determine exactly what you have on hand. Compare those figures with the previous season’s budget plan for use of those items. Determine how anticipated use varied from actual use, and identify why that happened.

Review labor costs

Check with facility administrative personnel to update your labor cost figures. There may be changes in the prevailing wages of a governmental agency, cost of living adjustments as part of a union agreement or changes in the insurance and benefits package. Your budgeted cost per employee labor hour should include not only the current salary, but also the compensation package.

You’ll also need to include budget allocations for the current salary and benefits package for all supervisory personnel. There may be an additional line item on your budget allocating a portion of the costs for facility administrative personnel or that may be included within a predetermined “overhead” allocation.

Focus on productivity

Labor costs generally are the largest segment of the budget, so look for ways to increase productivity. Be aware of the capabilities of your staff and work with them to increase their effectiveness. Plan for the training and supervision of any new hires, perhaps assigning an experienced staff member as a mentor. Track labor hours for specific sites and/or job assignments. Meet with your staff to discuss current procedures and practices and how to improve them.

Spend to save

Take the time to educate yourself on the new developments in products and equipment. Advances in technology can increase productivity to the extent that purchasing a newer model quickly pays for itself. Analyze the cost-to-benefit ratio to determine if an upgrade can be justified. When making a budget request for new products or equipment, you should be able to show how it will improve your program and why the added costs are justified.

Steve Guise has over 25 years of experience in the turf management industry. He is vice president of maintenance operations for Marina Landscape, based in Anaheim, Calif.