Beyond the Classroom: A Former Director's Desk on Educational Facilities Operations

3 minutes

Budget Season Has Begun!

Being a facilities director in an educational institution comes with an extremely specific set of challenges, from juggling budgets to ensuring the longevity of critical assets, all while handling the day-to-day management of students, teachers, and administrators. I spent the last decade working in educational facilities and operations in various capacities.  My most recent position was the Director of Operations and Facilities at The Windward School in New York. In my career journey, I was introduced to Brightly SchoolDude for a work order and maintenance management system back in 2013 at Campbell Hall School in Los Angeles and I continued to follow their evolution as they grew into what is now Brightly Software.  Recently, I have taken my knowledge of educational facilities management and transitioned my career to work directly for Brightly, to help educational facilities leaders see the immense benefits of some of our amazing new products in making their lives easier.  I know from first-hand experience that the job of educational facilities management is not for the faint of heart!  It is fraught with the daily need for flexibility, accuracy, large-scale oversight, and customer service.

In my experience, a facilities director also needs resources to aid with budgeting and reporting. Budgets take up valuable time in their day, yet it is critical for facilities leaders to have a “seat at the table” when it comes to strategic campus planning. They should be able to present a detailed, data-backed budget proposal to school financial leaders (superintendent, head of school, CFO, etc.) to outline expected repairs and replacements in the next three to five years and highlight larger capital improvements for better spending.

In my transition to working for Brightly, I've been impressed with our new asset investment planning products.  I'm hopeful that I can make life easier for my former colleagues too!  One of our latest products, Origin™, takes your strategic budgeting to the next level, surpassing basic asset management and CMMS systems.  It provides solutions for effective strategic asset management along with a suite of products to optimize everything from event management to energy use.  This includes capital planning and budget prioritization with real-time data.

Creating a Facilities Budget

While school finance leaders have one set of guidelines when creating a budget, they often need their big-ticket items and capital planning to come from the facilities leaders.  Creating a budget as a facilities director involves a systematic and strategic approach.  To get started quickly, begin with these seven steps:

  1. Assessment of Current Facilities:

Conduct a thorough assessment of the current state of facilities.  Identify maintenance needs, repair requirements, and any necessary upgrades.  You may have an aging FCA sitting on a bookshelf somewhere, but it is best to start fresh and at least do your own assessment with the help of your staff to see what needs repair.

  1. Create A List of Priorities and Collaborate with Stakeholders:

Define the goals and priorities for facility management.  This could include ensuring safety, maintaining compliance, improving energy efficiency, or enhancing the overall functionality of the facilities.

  1. Review Historical Data:

Analyze past budgets, expenses, and maintenance records. Identify trends, areas of overspending, and areas where cost savings were achieved.

  1. Collaborate with Stakeholders:

Engage with various stakeholders, including department heads, administrators, and maintenance staff, to understand their needs and priorities and “wish list” items.

  1. Prioritize Maintenance and Upgrades:

Prioritize maintenance tasks and facility upgrades based on urgency, safety considerations, and the impact on the overall operation of the facilities.

  1. Research and Estimate Costs:

Gather quotes and estimates for necessary repairs, maintenance, and upgrades. Consider factors such as materials, labor, and any external contractors needed.

  1. Consider Long-Term Planning:

Factor in long-term planning for major renovations or replacements; this may include HVAC systems, roofing, or other components that have a significant impact on the facilities.

Keep in mind that proactive facilities management, driven by preventative maintenance plans, aims to prevent unexpected issues that can disrupt your budget. Be prepared with the necessary data and details for your financial leaders as budgeting season approaches!

Want to learn more about budgeting for 2024-25 school year? Join us on January 31 to continue this vital conversation