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May 23, 2003

End of Year Spending

Until I came to Tufts I had always been critical of organizations who make a rush at the end of the year to blow money, most of the stories I'd heard demonstrated wasting taxpayer funds.

I've seen two approaches to end-of-year funds:
1) blow them on junk for the sake of preserving the budget amounts next year
2) make a plan and use funds to significant improvements in organization

Most of the stories I've heard fall under number 1. After having seen our director's use of year-end funds I have come to a new appreciation for how this system works. With a little planning the end-of-year funds become a method for both preforming upgrades where funding wouldn't allow and pushing the envelope with new technology.

Three things contribute to having surplus funds at the end of a year:
1) Our director is regularly finding pockets of grants which get applied in some way to what we're working on, freeing up previously allocated funds
2) Staff changes which leave positions vacant for periods of time, freeing up salary money
3) Living frugally through the year in case of emergency

The gist of what's happened over the past 2-3 weeks is we've been able to dream a little and pick up some fairly significant pieces of hardware (and some software) which will enhance the speed and abilities of our service.

The biggest addition is a dual 1G Sunfire 280R, which will replace an older dual 450 U60, a huge boost in processing speed for the end users. We also purchased a bundle of SCSI drives which will either double our storage space or allow us to do RAID striping (instead of straight mirroring). We replaced a number of less expensive machines (desktops and internal servers). I think total there were between 30-40 items that ended up being approved.

The improvement I'm most excited to see is Andy's addition of a triple-head video card and two new monitors to match his current 19" Dell trinitron. Both interested to see three monitors in action (I use dual, but have never seen triple). Also, something about having Linux driving that kind of a development environment makes it more exciting.

Spending end-of-year funds seems acceptable if it's done responsibly, of course it is much easier to come to terms with spending excess money if you are a decision maker in how that money gets spent.

Posted by mike at May 23, 2003 12:19 PM