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November 28, 2018

4 Strategies to Maximize Your Capital Improvement Program Budget

With 2018 coming to an end, creating a budget, financial planning and number crunching might be behind you. However, you may still have concerns about how to make your dollars stretch. Can you accomplish what you need with what’s been set aside?  

Our team enjoys working with clients to ensure the maximum value is achieved with their approved budgets. Early in her career, Carisa McMullen, principal of Landworks Studio, was responsible for the park Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for a large city, so she has personal experience with the challenges cities often face. Now, as a design consultant, she can offer some insight into avoiding the biggest pitfall….having ideas that are bigger than the budget. 

Developing a budget that matches a city’s full project scope and design aesthetic should start with understanding how much it costs to achieve the desired outcome. We’ve assembled four strategies that will help ensure you are working with accurate numbers and are able to complete a park project successfully.

  1. While spreading investments out across all constituents each year may mean everyone wins a little, it also means everyone loses. Compromise is a necessary part of governmental planning; however, a better approach is to have a system-wide master plan that outlines an equitable distribution of improvements over a 10-year period. This ensures all citizens see improvements over time that meet their specific needs.
  2. If you have a master plan, it is important to understand what the goals and needs are for the specific park planned for improvements. Is the planned dollar amount in the CIP still a realistic one? Can all the desired elements outlined in the plan or promised to constituents be accomplished? If the answer is no, then the budget should be adjusted or expectations need to be reduced before a design services RFQ is issued.  
  3. Understanding the current construction environment is critical. Construction costs can vary greatly depending on the demand and availability of materials, as well as general contractors and various construction trades. There are a number of factors that impact what can ultimately get built. Use current bid tabs and relationships with colleagues, contractors or design consultants to ground-truth your budget number.
  4. Don’t forget to account for design consultant fees. Depending on the size and scope of the project, these could be anywhere from 5 to 11 percent of the project’s construction costs from concept through construction administration. While this expense doesn’t equate to programmable elements in the park, it is the first critical step in providing the most impactful, relevant, engaging and safe park for the public. It also offers cities the opportunity to have a long-term return on their investment.  

Not sure where to start? Feel free to contact us at 913.780.6707 to develop a system-wide or individual parks master plan. We can also walk through your budget numbers, considering your constituents’ expectations and help you experience a more trouble-free year of planning, design and construction.