Kinds of Budgets- PROPS

  Click here to view sub-topics:

BUDGETING               Spreadsheet/tracking





In addition to managing the show budget the properties director often has several other budget lines. 

The Overhead budget (sometimes called Supplies or Shop Perishables budget)  is used to purchase bulk supplies for an entire season of shows.  This allows better pricing on materials and keeps the shop supplied so work is not dependent on the arrival of materials purchased on an “as needed” basis.  The items often purchased on the overhead budget may include muslin, foam rubber, upholstery batting, sewing sundries, staples, sandpaper, hardware (nuts, bolts, nails, angle irons, pop rivets, casters, etc.), brown paper for layout, glues, white and black paint, spray paints, tints, brushes, sealers, latex gloves, dust masks, hearing protection, office supplies, etc.  The Overhead budget purchases those consumable items used in the building of props over the entire season and cannot be easily attributed to a single show.


   A Tool and Shop Maintenance budget is often utilized to buy new tools or to fix /replace broken tools.  This budget purchases those items used over multiple seasons and builds.  Items purchased on this type of budget often include ladders, rolling carts, storage units, computers, software upgrades, new tools, etc.  

    Some organizations keep this budget at the production management level or even higher administratively in a "Facilities" budget viewing these expenses as a capitol improvement. In that case the properties director must work to insure administration understands the importance of providing funding for replacement and maintenance of shop tools as an immediate need while planning for future improvements and anticipated larger item replacements. Depending on the accessibility and openness of the relationship between production and administration (usually a reflection of the size of the organization) this structure of control over the budget and how it gets spent may work as easily as having a designated prop budget for tool maintenance.  

    Some development departments have undertaken specific fund-raising events to support the renovation of production spaces and the upgrading of equipment or sought out donors having a special interest in the production side of theatre to underwrite the purchase of a special tool outside usual budget considerations. Similarly, the marketing department will sometimes offer show tickets or advertising in the program in exchange for materials and services necessary to production.  Getting the folks in these offices to understand and appreciate how their support of the production areas generally benefits the bottom line will open the door to all sorts of ways to support the theatre and the shops.

    Most regional theatres have the support of the theatre administration, backed by the marketing and development offices, to budget for large ticket items and shop renovations balanced with a seasonal tool and maintenance budget for upkeep of the shop and tools.  Having control of the seasonal budget allows the properties director to effectively keep tools maintained for safe operation and replace small ticket items on an as-needed basis while planning for future items to be supported at the "facilities" level.

Some organizations have a single budget line for both overhead and tool/shop maintenance. It is handy to have the budgets split, even if only internally, to enable the properties director to see what is used in show production versus the overall production costs for tools and shop maintenance. This understanding is especially helpful when working with estimating budgets in collaboration with the production manager.  It is important to track how the Overhead budget is spent as often times a single show can consume more than it’s fair share of the supplies purchased to cover the season.   Understanding the support the Overhead budget gave to a particular show can illuminate budget planning for upcoming seasons having similar shows. Higher budget adjustments should be made to compensate for the additional expenses the Overhead budget covered.


    Larger theatres may also require the properties director to manage budgets for vehicle/travel, prop storage facility rental, and over-hire personnel.

The vehicle/travel budget may need to cover not only the maintenance of a company vehicle but also personal reimbursement of mileage when a member of the prop shop uses their own car for business use such as prop shopping or moving items from prop storage to the theatre.  The vehicle budget might also cover rental vehicles, gas and tolls, or parking expenses. Given the escalation of gas prices this can become a risky budget line to manage.  Some organizations use this budget to cover travel for the properties staff when attending conferences or when it is necessary to fly a properties staff member to another city when working on a co-production.  In those cases, keeping in touch with administration to insure adequate funding has been set aside is important.

Click HERE to see Mileage report form example for personal reimbursement.

A prop storage budget may account for any expenses associated with where the props are stored including monthly rental fees, heating or cooling, purchasing of carts and moving equipment, and any space maintenance issues.  Given the sense that the storage space is part of the theatres physical plant whether it is directly connected with the actual theatre building, these expenses are usually budgeted and handled at the administrative level and NOT by the individual shops but in some cases, the properties director is asked to manage it as part of the prop shop administration load. 

This budget might also be just a smaller budget to cover things like light bulbs, cleaning supplies, and moving equipment and materials (i.e.: boxes, moving pads, carts) and the actual rental or facility upkeep is covered at the administrative level.  It is tracked separately from the Overhead or Shop tools/ maintenance budget in order to track expenses related specifically to the props storage areas.


Another area that is usually maintained by upper theatre administration (i.e.: managing director or production manager) is personnel hiring even when it is an over-hire situation including hiring, payment, taxes, and withholding. The prop shop, however, will need to track hours and time used from their allotted budget of money. Those prop shops utilizing over-hire personnel will have a variety of folks hired as specialty artists or to assist when a load-in or strike requires extra hands.  Depending on skill level and how long the person has worked at the theatre, pay may vary.  Determining who is hired and how much they are paid is often left to the discretion of the properties director.  The properties director contacts the potential over-hire artisan and then passes on the information to administration to complete the bookkeeping necessary for proper payment and tracking.

The properties director processes time sheets or a weekly reporting of hours to administration, allowing an accurate tracking of people hired and money remaining in the over-hire budget.   As with any budget, the properties director should occasionally confirm the accuracy of those figures to insure the shop figures are in agreement with administration and to alert upper management if a deficit seems likely. 


Those organizations renting out their prop stock or sell their stock may also need to have a separate budget line tracking the income so it can be turned in to the theatre or utilized for a special project.   Other theatre companies simply put the money into their Overhead or Maintenance budgets indicating it as an “income” line item.


  Click here to view sub-topics:

BUDGETING               Spreadsheet/tracking

Click to move to next “chapter”:  The Rehearsal and Production Process