Nottelmann Music St. Louis

Preparing The Music Department Budget; Being Creative

Presented by Joe Pappas, Nottelmann Music Clinician – 

One of the most difficult aspects of being a music director at any level is anticipating the needs, growth and budget of the school music program.  Many times we are faced with needs that exceed the annual budget and are forced to find other means to support our programs.  By using the long range planning and cooperation of the school district, you as the director should have success with preparing the budget.

Having worked in four different school districts and at the college level, I have experienced three types of budgets.  Each one has its advantages and disadvantages.  However, knowing these types and how they function will assist you in being able to prioritize and justify your needs.

The first thing to do is take inventory of music, instruments and uniform apparel.  Next, look at your present and future class or ensemble numbers.  Along this line look at your past enrollment numbers and chart the numbers by years.  This will give you an idea of past and future growth.  If you are new to the school you may have to have assistance from the guidance office. Next, develop your wish/need list.  Keep these separate as you will have to defend your needs with administration later.

Finally, based on the information you have compiled prepare a three to five year budget plan, categorizing music/textbooks/technology, instruments, uniforms, repairs and group travel.  Be sure to include professional development, etc., if your school pays this. Be sure to prioritize the needs and wants.  The experiences of my budgets were built with growth in mind and a breakdown of my basic needs, 20-30% new music; 10-15% repairs/upkeep; 40-60% for new equipment, uniforms, 10% travel.  Professional development was not part of this budget plan.

Once you have your “ideal” budget, administration will generally use one of three types of budgets.  I have named these, “The Red Line,” “Weʼll See What We Can Do,” and “The Lump Dollar Amount”  budgets.

“The Red Line Budget”

This type of budget is basically where you submit your needs with ordering information, dollar amount for each line item and shipping cost.  It is important that you prioritize this one!  The administration reviews it and draws the line cutting everything below the line they can afford.  Some administration will also prioritize what they feel they can afford and cut certain items.  This can be an advantage, but my experiences are it is mostly a disadvantage.  Always ask for more than you expect!

“Weʼll See What We Can Do Budget”

This budget is the most dangerous!  You are at the mercy of the administration and may get very little or meet my needs.  My experiences were the first, most of the time I got very little because I didnʼt prioritize or justify.  In one situation all I got was a $90 repair kit as opposed to the new marching drums another high school got in the district! This is a common type budget in small schools.  If your budget is this type, I recommend meeting with your administration and see if you can change the strategy or at least have input.

“The Dollar Amount Budget”

This is the one I preferred as I had more control of the needs.  I was given the dollar amount I had to work and not exceed.  As a result I was able to meet the program needs and follow the budget I developed.  It also allowed me to look ahead and often add future needs.  As you know there are always needs for the music department!  Donʼt be shy, ask administration if any money is available at the end of the year to keep you in mind!

In general, there are other aspects you need to be concerned with in developing your budgets.  Below are items to take into consideration working with budgets and general purchases.

  • Check with administration about transportation, festival fees, etc., to see if they are covered by general funds and not department funds.
  • Check to see if music or textbooks are part of your yearly budget or covered by school funds.
  • Before submitting you annual budget, show your administration your long range plans and goals. This will assist in supporting your immediate and long range needs.
  • If possible, ask for a blanket purchase order amount to your preferred music or instrument vendor. This is like a savings account, you purchase music at various intervals taking the spent amount from the blanket PO. It helps avoids delays with purchase orders and helps in emergency needs. (i.e. festival scores, repairs, etc.)
  • Think through your entire year, not quarter or semester at a time.
  • When submitting the budget, be sure to acquire the number of necessary bids needed (especially big ticket items). Include all information, make, model, size, shipping and discount if applicable. This shows the administration you are trying to find the best price for your needs and spend the money wisely.
  • Look at the number of programs you have for each ensemble and figure 2-4 new music selections per program. If you have a healthy library, 1 or 2 may be sufficient. It is always good to have new or modern works for the library.  You also will need to consider solo and ensemble festival needs.  I tried to have at least one copy of each in the library.  I would ask students to purchase their own solo copy of the work.
  • Have the school pick up the tab for most your needs. Avoid having to fund raise, use booster money, etc., for everyday needs. Donʼt volunteer the money, it will haunt you later!
  • When purchasing uniforms or robes, itʼs important you try to have the school pay the full amount. There may be times you have to negotiate. Ask the administration

if the sport teams have to purchase their uniforms.  Point out the average lifespan of uniforms, the materials used and the consumable items that need to be replaced.  Look ahead to uniform needs for growth if your program appears to be headed in that direction.

  • Know the final day you have to spend the amount you were given. This can be helpful in filling needs for the next school year. If you have money remaining, get the “blanket” purchase order previously mentioned to cover forgotten or summer needs.
  • Always make sure you have a purchase order before you buy! I have heard some directors being stuck with having to pay for the items they ordered without approval. Turn in receipts and all necessary paperwork to the business agent.
  • Check with your preferred vendor about a purchase/lease program for large items such as pianos, tubas, percussion equipment, etc. You might be better off including a 3 year purchase plan rather than outright purchases. This way you can get more over a longer period.  Ask the vendor to assist selling this point to administration and board. Note: This is where your 3-5 year plan comes in handy!)
  • Remember to include upgrades for technology if it is not covered by textbook funds in the school. This includes Smart Music®, Finale®, etc.

With planning and open communications between you and your administration, budget needs are accessible and will result in success of your program.  Donʼt be hesitant to express your needs, even in your first year!

Sample Budget Request

Joe Pappas

Joe Pappas:  Joe has written over two hundred compositions for beginning bands to college wind ensembles, but most known for his compositions for young bands and young musicians. After forty six years of successful teaching in public schools and college level, he now devotes most of his time to composing, working as an educational consultant, judging band festivals, and running his own company, JPM Music Publications.

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