Regardless of your tenure as a cleaning professional, budgeting is difficult to master. Many facility managers often don’t know where to begin. What are your priorities? Labor, training, purchasing equipment, or the cleaning needs within the facility? What about cleaning frequency or those non-cleaning tasks the department is responsible for?

Carl Costanza, director of facilities at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Ill. says, “all of the above.”

“It took a lot of time to gather all this information,” he says, “but in the end, it was well worth it.”

As a result, Costanza has a better understanding of his facility and found a way to save time and money in the long run.

Assessing your facility
Every facility manager knows that the best way to clean is “faster, cheaper, easier, healthier, and safer,” all while achieving the desired result. But none of this is possible without a good understanding of your facility.

“Knowledge is key when budgeting,” says Steve Spencer, facility specialist at State Farm Insurance in Bloomington, Ill. “Know your facility.” This means familiarizing yourself with the ins and outs of each building.

Many industry experts recommend that facility managers put together a good business case analysis of their facility. Know the quality levels and square footage of each building – the number or rooms, light fixtures, types of flooring, etc.

Once this information is collected, compare it to the history of the facility. What advancements have been made to the facility since the last budget was developed?

A change in the facility can drastically alter a budget. For instance, have traditional light fixtures been replaced by lights with sensors? Has tile replaced what was once carpeting? Has your facility expanded, increasing square footage that workers need to clean?

“When you have a good grasp on your facilities needs, you can put a price tag on it,” says John Watson, director of facility services at North Lake Community College in Irving, Texas.

Evaluating cleaning specifications
Developing a “needs analysis” will help facility managers determine the building’s desired level of clean, as well as the frequency of cleaning and manpower necessary to reach the desired goal. A proper needs analysis will also take into account both the data on the building, as well as high traffic areas and impression areas, such as restrooms and entryways.

“Look for the cleaning tasks that will effect the life-cycle of the building,” says Watson. “Also be aware of the impact that the cleaning schedule has on the building and look for those jobs that require more time and attention for little quality improvements.”

Evaluating “frequency of tasks” can save budget dollars in the long run. Gary Brezinski, director of buildings and grounds at the West Ottawa School District in Holland, Mich. recommends “moving outside the box and changing what you are currently doing” in an effort to become more efficient. “Sit down and figure out what absolutely needs to be done,” says Brezinski.

Evaluate what tasks can be reduced in frequency, while continuing to maintain quality. “I visited an office where they scrubbed the tile every day,” says Spencer. “It could just be swept, saving time and money, while cutting labor in half and reducing expenses such as chemicals and water.”

Spencer also recommends taking a look at trash collection, which can add up to around 25 percent of the labor budget. Most garbage is paper and reducing the amount of times this trash is taken out can save significantly.

When evaluating work it is also important to include those activities that don’t involve cleaning. Omitting this when putting together a comprehensive budget will skew the numbers drastically.

“Managers can get into trouble if these activities are not calculated when putting together a budget,” says Dave Frank of the American Institute for Cleaning Sciences. “Activities such as room set-up and breakdowns can take as many as 10 hours a week.”

Sitting down and developing a time study for every task required to maintain a building will help facility managers determine where to cut time and save money. Coming up with this calculation will outline the annual hours spent on each task.

“With this information, facility managers can manage the building and cleaning activities more accurately,” says Frank. “Don’t clean areas that aren’t dirty. You can save a lot of money over time by cutting back and still not impact standards for the appearance.”

Taking a look at labor
“In addition to an exhaustive knowledge and database of your facility, take a hard look at labor costs when working on a budget,” says Jack VanReeth, manager of environmental services at Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pa. “Almost 90 percent of your budget is going to be related to labor.”

When factoring labor into the budget, facility managers should consider both productive and non-productive time because both will impact budget dollars. Does your facility provide vacation, family medical and sick time? Those are all days where employees are being paid, but work is not getting done. Analyzing this may determine that of the total paid hours, maybe only 70 percent are actually work hours. This needs to be factored in.

Many industry experts realize that dealing with the high cost of labor is difficult, but if managers can figure out better ways to do the job and become more efficient, they will save valuable budget dollars.

“Eliminate duplication of services,” says Spencer. “Our facility had day maids and porters, as well as a cleaning crew at night. We realized that they all do the same thing so we moved everything to daytime so that the work is only done once a day.”

Training is also an important piece of the budget pie. Without proper training on policies and procedures, employees may take longer on tasks, or worse, do them incorrectly, causing others to pick up the slack and sometimes duplicate tasks.

Costanza has worked training into his bid specifications so that once a month, the distributor comes in for an hour or so to educate workers on both products and proper cleaning procedures.

VanReeth chooses to use the free services from both the distributors and manufacturers he works with, but wished the help was available more often.

“This industry has high turn-over and although the training is helpful to the employees, when we have someone new, we don’t always have time to get the distributors in here again,” he says. “It would be so helpful to have those training courses on DVD or VHS so we could reference them more often.”

Brezinski found a way around this problem by conducting his own training. “I use our vendors to get information and start up programs. I then educate myself and use what I have learned to train my employees,” he says. “The information out there is so valuable that it is well worth the time.”

Testing the equipment
Purchasing is obviously a large part of any housekeeping budget, but this is also one area that facility managers can control. Often times, implementing specific cleaning programs may cost money up front, but will cut dollars overall. This includes automatic appliances in the restroom, which will save on water, electric, soap, paper towels, etc.; installing improved floor finishes that require less frequent cleaning and saves on labor; or implementing programs such as microfiber technology that can save on chemical purchases, as well as labor costs.

In addition to these programs, the initial purchase of large cleaning equipment can eat up a lot of the purchasing budget. If new equipment is necessary, Costanza recommends using his bidding process.

“In the past, we would call a couple different suppliers and just go with the lowest price,” he says. “We probably weren’t getting the best price because we didn’t create loyalty to any one supplier. Not to mention we were spending a lot of time with the process. Now we are loyal to one supplier and we have seen more savings than ever before.”

Preventative maintenance will also save on the budget. Listening to workers is a great practice in preventative maintenance. Because they use these machines often, workers will know when maintenance is necessary.

“Value the opinion of your staff when considering budgets and purchasing decisions,” says Watson. “They will tell you what needs to be done and what improvements are necessary.”

Approaching management
When industry experts were asked what was most important when approaching top management with a budget concern, the answer was overwhelmingly unanimous: Be prepared.

“Don’t go into a meeting with the boss without a defined scope of work,” says Frank. “The more data you provide them, the more pull you will have with the budget. Communicate, realistically, what can and can’t be done.”

Spencer adds that it is also important to know where the dollars are currently being spent, the time that goes into the tasks, and how employees are working. “Bring these statistics into the meeting, present them with the plan and explain who will be hurt by cuts, who can help get the work done and how to allocate the money. Then let them decide where to cut the budget.”

Watson agrees, and adds that feedback from your employees may also prove to be valuable when arguing budget dollars. “Go in with the data behind you,” he says. “Put together different options that all work and let them choose the best plan.”

“Provide management with the facts,” says Brezinski. “Show them the need as well as the savings. Also be prepared to provide answers to their questions immediately.”

VanReeth recommends being prepared at the very first meeting with superiors and emphasizes the importance of staying calm.

“Maintain your composure and don’t become emotional when they challenge your decision,” he says. “Calmly and logically respond with prepared stats rather than emotional appeal.”

Finally Costanza suggests that facility managers be proactive with their budget dollars. “Look for areas where you can save throughout the year,” he says. “If you can’t find a place to save, you aren’t looking hard enough.”

If managers are constantly looking at the overall operation, they will be better prepared to defend the department during budget negotiations.

Finding the Help you Need
There are many products and services on the market that can help facility service providers with the daunting task of reducing staff, analyzing and breaking down their facility, and managing purchases. These are just a few resources that readers have found particularly helpful.

The International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA) and KnowledgeWorx are promoting Info-Clean as an easy workloading program that can help the end-user evaluate cleaning and staffing costs. More information can be found at

Another helpful program is the Custodial Operation Self-Analysis Program, available from The Association of Higher Education Facility Managers (APPA). This program will help managers better understand custodial costs and staffing levels within their facilities. More information on this program can be found on their Web site at

Cost calculators can also be very helpful when analyzing your purchasing. The ISSA is just one organization that provides cost calculators on their Web site to aid facility managers working on budgets. This can be found at

Industry experts also recommend facility managers re-evaluate their entire cleaning regimen, including frequency of tasks. It has been said that considering programs such as day cleaning may save significant budget dollars. One software application that has proven to be helpful is from the American Institute for Cleaning Sciences and can be found at