Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Budget Cut, That Comes First

2011 started out quite strangely. I was accustomed to preparing a budget, explaining it to my Engineer-manager, getting push-back from him, and then eventually after more push-back from the management above him, and after related adjustment in the quotes from some of my vendors, usually I could start processing orders by mid-February (no renewals the year before, in this company! :-) )

Instead, when I sat down with my manager in early January, he seemed to give the entire budget a 'green light,' even the wish-list items that I had included mostly to give me something to cut, in the negotiations I expected to have. And a few days later, he went on vacation, for the latter half of January. The usual negotiation of my budget, up the management reporting chain, had not occurred yet.

Not wanting to get behind schedule with my orders, I started submitting my purchase order requests. The admin staff I was submitting them to told me they could not process them because the entire budget for the organization had not been determined yet. (This was also strange).

I happened to be friendly with the person who maintained the financial records (basically, she's a bookkeeper) for the larger organization, that funded me. I checked in with her for the real "low down" on what was going on. She told me that although the apportionment of my funding was up to the VP above my manager, it looked like my budget would be cut by a dollar figure, that was equal to 27% of the amount I had been budgeted the previous year (getting a flat or slightly reduced budget was normal, but not a reduction like that. And as most librarians know, the services we purchase increase per year, no matter what the economic conditions, on average about 6%.)  I got this word late in January, and my manager was still on vacation. The 30-day grace period most of my online vendors would give me was expiring in less than a week. I started scrambling to get major reductions, eliminate some services altogether, and generally re-balance the suite of services.

When my manager returned from his vacation, he heard from me about the budget cut. He seemed genuinely surprised that it had happened. However, that doesn't really explain why he had "green-lighted" it, in the first place.

For the next three or so weeks, he and I worked very intensely, pushing the vendors to the wall, and getting legal review of our contracts, for loopholes that would permit us to walk away from online services packaged subscriptions, without penalty. It looked like the budget was going to come together by perhaps the third week in February.

Something personal came up, and I took the afternoon of Friday February 11 off, as vacation.

My manager usually did not schedule meetings the same day that he held them. But on the following Monday, my manager said he needed me to come to his office at 1pm.

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