current activities/programs you deem to be “absolutely essential”


We’ll begin with the assumption that you have been appointed as the budget manager for your unit (be sure to read Lecture 2A to learn about the role of a budget manager) and now have been told that your institution is going to use a zero-based budget model with an 80% base for the next fiscal year – meaning, you will have 20% less funding to work with.  Your tasks are to:

  • Identify which of the current activities/programs you deem to be “absolutely essential” and necessary for the operation of your unit and can be continued under the 80% base. In the “real world” not all activities/programs have the same expenditure levels but, for the sake of this exercise (since this is only a one-month course) we’ll assume the expenses to be equal.  So, list all of the activities/programs and then select the 80% that you deem to be the most essential.
  • Next, decide which of the activities/programs in the 20% not funded, you would argue should be restored if you were granted an addition 10% funding and articulate a rational for their selection. Picture yourself as having to fight for this additional 10% funding and make your best possible case.
  • Finally, decide if the remaining non-funded activities/programs are really something that your unit needs and are worth the strong justification and documentation effort you would have to make to attempt to get central administration consider granting your unit funding for this last 10% of your prior fiscal year allocation. This is a hard decision to make because you have to assume that administration is not going to be disposed to hear your argument so, decide if any of these remaining activities/programs are worth the fight you would face and, if so, how best to made the case on behalf of them for your budget unit.
  • We won’t subject you to the daunting task of asking for additional funds above the full level of your last fiscal year allocation for one or more new activities/programs your budget unit wants to begin. But ……… if you want to try it in this exercise, do so, but know that you will be expected to provide extraordinary justification and documentation for such a request.  I’ve “been there and done that” in real-life on two occasions and the only analogy I can make is to suggest that the presentation before the budget committee almost felt like a fast and furious combat situation!  In lecture 4A we note Birdsall (1995) advising that budget unit managers “demonstrate the ability to make budget hard choices within the department prior to bringing the unit’s budget to top administration” – this is sound advice which can help you prevail in any budgetary wars you may encounter.
  • Use the matrix below to complete your assignment.
List 80% Programs Justification
List Additional 10% Programs Justification
List Final 10% Programs Justification
List New Programs Above

Prior Year Allocation Level



Suggested “Do’s” & “Don’ts”

  • Do discuss this assignment with your administrator(s) and some of the personnel in your current work unit to solicit suggestions and assistance.
  • Don’t discuss and/or list any financial, confidential, or proprietary data or information in the justification section of the matrix —– you may discuss these items with your administrator(s) and the personnel in your unit but they need not/should not be reported as part of your assignment.
  • Do be concise and descriptive in your justification statements.
  • Do be realistic about your selection of activities/programs to be identified at the 80%, 90%, and 100% levels.
  • Finally, do a good job on the assignment and attempt to picture yourself as doing it in the “real world” but, don’t kill yourself in doing so since you have only one month for this course and there is a lot of material to cover.
Please follow and like us: