Maintenance Funding Strategy: Focus on Sustainability
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Fall brings with it a host of familiar happenings. Leaves turn colors. Temperatures drop. And budgets for K-12 maintenance suffer.
Every year at this time, maintenance and engineering managers ask voters and school boards for more money to fund much-needed school repairs. Yes, most facilities struggle to find adequate funding for maintenance, but it's a sad fact that school districts have had the toughest row to hoe in recent decades because they rely on public funds for their operations.
The issue of deferred maintenance is not popular within facilities. Many building owners and facility executives might wish the issue would just go away. But as every manager knows, wishing won't make it so.
Even a cursory check of the news in recent months finds that many K-12 departments are still in a tough fight over funding. As the nation's economy struggles, school boards have adopted budgets that trim funds for maintenance. Such cuts are a precursor to the fate departments will suffer this fall, when voters in many districts will turn down bond proposals that would provide funds for major capital projects and repairs.
Managers in these districts — and, really, in all facilities worried about tightening budgets — might want to consider one strategy that has worked almost every time it has been used: Make it green. Whenever possible, managers should frame their budget requests and presentations in terms of sustainability.
Why? The issue of sustainability has changed emotions and brought success to nearly every conceivable product, campaign and cause in which it has been used. Why not deferred maintenance?
Think about it. The proper maintenance of existing facilities is everything sustainability represents. It extends the performance life of existing facilities and averts the need to throw more money at building new ones. It curtails water waste caused by leaks in plumbing and irrigation systems. It cuts energy waste resulting from defective or out-of-date HVAC systems and components, as well as from leaky building envelopes that allow heat to escape.
Tapping into the power of sustainability might give managers something they have long needed: a strategy that changes the tone of the discussion about deferred maintenance for the better and maybe even delivers the funding to finally do something about it.
Dan Hounsell offers observations about trends in maintenance and engineering management and the evolving role of managers in facilities.
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