Thursday, January 6, 2011

Why A Budget is Important Not Only In Personal Finance

Let me just say this....while I have made my own mistakes, I sure as heck can identify a train wreck about to happen!  And I am also finding out the reprocussions of sticking your head in the sand.

I am co-chair of the bookfairs  (we do 2-3 a year) at the kids' school (via PTA), which have been very successful.  Part of our success comes from working some great people at the kids' former school (my co-chair got redistricted too), who taught us alot about the inner workings of the book fair, planning, etc.

The Fall 2010 bookfair was booked in Spring 2010 (prior to us entering this school).  The woman who previously handled the event decided in Sept 2010 that she didn't want to do it anymore.  So we stepped in.  Our first question to the PTA...What is our budget?.  We were told $0. do you propose we do an event without a budget???   Long story short, we ended up spending $38.  We made twice as much money as past fairs.  Our $38 was well spent.  The treasurer told us to submit our receipts, and she would cut us a check.  Which is what we did.

After the final numbers were confirmed...a few things came to light.  Additionally, events of the past 2 days have further illuminated a suspected problem.  Namely.....ACCOUNTABILITY, COMMUNICATION, and BUDGET.

1)  While we at first thought we spent $38 on the fair.....we actually spent more.  The woman in charge of one area said she knew where supplies were and would take care of things.  Ok, great.  Turns out she went out and bought it all herself, and took home what wasn't used. 

2)  From what we can tell, the way most events have been run is A) the chairs just go and buy whatever they want, then B) they take their reimbursement off the top, and C) whatever is left over is profit.  No one is keeping track of how much it actually costs to put on events...they only look at the profit.  The treasurer has just been paying people based on the receipt.  No line item that the event cost XX to put on....just subtract it from the total.

3)  Events seem to happen in a bubble, unrelated to other things.  The chairs just do things without talking to anyone, and it is a Don't ask, Don't tell situation.

Holy Cow!!!!  This blew up 10 fold last night.  I sent the treasurer a note asking for $100 line item to be considered for the February Bookfair, to be presented at the Budget meeting on Friday.  She said sure, she will bring it up, and thinks that $100 is reasonable.

The president thought that someone else should have been paying for stuff.  She claims she was unaware we spent any money the last time (even though she co-signed the check!).  This is coming on the heels of a completely separate event where the chairs spent $50 on supplies (which the president thought the chairs were "donating"), took it off the top of the $92 that was collecting....leaving $42 in "profit" until they had to pay for something else that was $75....which now made them in the hole $33.

These people are off their rocker!!!  They had absolutely no idea how much it cost to run an event, nor how much it should cost.  The chairs have been spending money left and right, not paying any attention to what they are spending, and hoping it all works out in the end.

So when we asked for a BUDGET....they looked at us like we were nuts because the events don't cost anything.  Never mind that the girl who laid out $200 in the fall shouldn't have had to do that.  Never mind that they need to know how much it costs to do things, so they can figure out if they can even afford to do it.

There are all sorts of numbers that don't add up, and they just shrug it off.  They have no idea why they don't work, or how to figure it out, or even if they should.    Seriously you really think that it doesn't cost anything to host an event??????  I don't even what to know how much money people have donated because they just figured that is what they had to do. 

It gives me a headache just thinking about how screwed up their budget is.


  1. And the sad part is people won't want to change how things are done because "this is how we've always done it". Stuff like this makes me INSANE! I am fortunate to work at a place where the entire organization is going through something called LEAN training. We are learning how to make things leaner and more efficient. Anyone can suggest something and work on the project to get it done. We've "LEANED" so much it's incredible. We've got a long way to go, but FINALLY, someone gets that everyone in the organization should have a say in how to fix things. It's refreshing!

  2. I've had the same ephiphany with our band boosters. I'm the treasurer and am appalled at how the money is spent. It's a complete MESS. This will be the first and last year I do this. It makes me too crazy.

  3. Our system used to have something similar to the PTA. Wonderful parents who organized events at the school and ran it beautifully. Then the province changed how this system ran and pretty much all of what you are speaking of 'does not fall under the mandate of the new organization'. All those things like Bake Sales, Book Fairs, lunches, fundraisers have fallen on the shoulders of the classroom teachers. With the exception of a tiny handful of amazing parents/grandparents, very few parents volunteer to help out anymore and feel it is the school's job. They fail to realize that most of these things are for 'extras' for their children, and not part of the provincial curriculum for their child. It's sad, really. May I say, as a teacher, I sure do appreciate all that you folks are doing for your children.