Absence of Resources: The 32nd annual M&O Cost Study

Results from AS&U's 32nd annual M&O Cost Study

The economy has taken its toll on school district budgets, and it has been especially hard on maintenance and operations (M&O) funding.

As states and local governments experience severe revenue shortfalls, school districts are finding they are not immune to the budget-cutting ax. And one of the first areas targeted for cuts is M&O, even as deferred maintenance and the effects of inadequate upkeep — such as mold and indoor environmental quality — continue to plague more and more institutions.

M&O spending as a percentage of district net current expenditure (NCE) sank to 7.4 percent in the 2002-03 school year, down from 7.8 percent the year before, according to American School & University's 32nd annual Maintenance and Operations Cost Study. This is the sixth consecutive year districts have apportioned a smaller percentage of expenditures to M&O, and it is the lowest percentage amount since this survey's inception.

Methodology

In October, chief business officials at the nation's public school districts were mailed a detailed questionnaire asking them to document various M&O costs, including salary/payroll, gas, electricity, utilities, maintenance and grounds equipment and supplies, outside contract labor and other costs, as well as maintenance practices.

The results that follow are listed not only by median, which is how data have been presented in the past, but also by mean (average) to offer an additional benchmarking tool. Data are listed on a national level and by district enrollment, and identify budgeted expenditures for M&O per student and per square foot for the 2002-03 school year.

Categories used in the survey questionnaire:

  • Budgeted: Amounts for the 2002-03 school year.

  • Per student: Based on enrollment (average daily attendance as of October 2002).

  • Per square foot: Based on total gross area of all district buildings maintained, including corridors, offices and common space.

  • NCE (net current expenditure): Total district expenditures, including teacher salaries, minus the cost of capital outlay, debt service and transportation.

  • Total maintenance and operations (M&O) expenditures: Including salaries, benefits, gas, electricity, utilities, equipment and supplies, outside contracts, etc., for custodial, maintenance and grounds.

  • Custodial: Those individuals responsible for building upkeep and cleaning.

  • Maintenance: Those individuals who perform skilled jobs, such as HVAC, electrical or plumbing repair.

  • Grounds: Those individuals responsible for landscape upkeep and maintenance.

  • Payroll: Including benefits.

  • Average salary: Annualized, excluding benefits.

  • Outside contract labor: Those hired for specialized jobs to maintain or repair building systems or equipment, such as HVAC maintenance or repair.

  • Other utilities: Including water, telephone, etc.

  • Other: Most often identified as clerical costs, travel expenses, equipment repair and rental, and insurance.

When using these figures as a benchmark, keep in mind that all costs are greatly affected by a number of factors, including the age and overall condition of buildings, climate, the labor market in your area, as well as other aspects over which school administrators have limited control.

Primary findings

Among the highlights of this year's survey:

  • Not only did the amount allocated to M&O as a percentage of NCE dip to its lowest level in more than three decades, but also the amount budgeted for both total M&O and total NCE dropped from what was spent last year.

  • Schools spent considerably less per student and per square foot on gas this year than last year ($41.51 vs. $60.04 and $0.22 vs. 0.34, respectively), even as gas prices continue to escalate. This could be an indication that energy upgrades and improved maintenance practices are achieving their desired results.

  • The amount of square feet maintained per custodian continued to grow, increasing to 24,167 square feet from 23,985 square feet last year. Square feet maintained per maintenance worker also jumped, increasing to 95,120 square feet from 89,000 square feet last year. Acres maintained per grounds worker grew to 36 from 30 last year.

  • While national median salary increased slightly for custodial workers ($24,599 vs. $24,203 last year), salaries for maintenance and grounds workers dipped ($31,860 vs. $33,076 last year and $24,725 vs. $28,125 last year, respectively).

  • The mean public school district has 24 full-time custodial, seven full-time maintenance and one full-time grounds personnel.

  • Transportation costs grew again this year. The median school district spends 5.5 percent of its total budget and $389 per pupil on transportation (5.1 percent and $376 per pupil last year).

 

TABLE 1A: Maintenance & Operations Costs (Expressed in median dollars per student)

 
      Nat'l Median < 1,000 students 1,000-3,499 students >3,500 students
Total Payroll $315.91 $309.43 $305.89 $348.22
  Custodial** $230.41 $232.56 $254.61 $201.78
  colspan="2"Maintenance** $57.86 $53.14 $47.31 $73.10
  Grounds** $8.65 $3.69 $9.65 $20.23
Outside Contract Labor $3.15 $0.00 $3.57 $5.82
Total Utilities $216.04 $242.76 $205.54 $188.38
  Gas** $41.51 $47.83 $41.86 $28.48
  Electricity** $114.04 $115.23 $112.53 $100.16
    Gas & Electricity (subtotal) $160.08 $182.81 $160.00 $136.69
  Other Fuels $0.00 $0.00 $0.59 $0.00
  Other Utilities $27.03 $30.71 $21.87 $30.11
  Trash Collection/Disposal $7.11 $7.43 $6.87 $7.33
Total Equipment & Supplies $55.30 $77.03 $55.78 $34.23
  Custodial/Maint. Equip. & Supplies** $43.04 $62.04 $47.96 $18.29
  Grounds Equip. & Supplies** $7.15 $8.66 $7.44 $3.29
Other $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Total M&O* $590.40 $629.22 $570.78 $576.65
Total NCE $7,388 $7,610 $7,519 $7,076
M&O as % NCE 7.43% 6.94% 7.87% 7.05%
*Calculated from subtotals (in bold).
**Based on fewer responses than the total due to schools that combine some of these categories.

TABLE 1B: Maintenance & Operations Costs (Expressed in mean dollars per student)

 
      Nat'l Mean <1,000 students 1,000-3,499 students >3,500 students
Total Payroll $373.47 $392.51 $344.45 $380.92
  Custodial** $253.25 $257.47 $266.40 $226.82
  Maintenance** $74.02 $67.20 $74.40 $84.80
  Grounds** $20.71 $24.24 $16.50 $22.21
Outside Contract Labor $33.17 $23.82 $50.00 $27.21
Total Utilities $250.42 $295.16 $228.84 $190.59
  Gas** $49.25 $57.54 $47.70 $33.53
  Electricity** $137.14 $154.30 $129.26 $113.01
    Gas & Electricity (subtotal) $185.69 $210.53 $176.65 $146.57
  Other Fuels $22.16 $31.94 $17.75 $10.09
  Other Utilities $35.24 $43.19 $27.24 $32.53
  Trash Collection/Disposal $8.95 $11.14 $7.20 $7.17
Total Equipment & Supplies $79.38 $100.48 $76.74 $39.03
  Custodial/Maint. Equip. & Supplies** $61.84 $82.15 $62.34 $24.42
  Grounds Equip. & Supplies** $15.52 $20.21 $13.71 $10.73
Other $10.44 $6.79 $14.22 $12.89
Total M&O* $746.88 $818.76 $714.25 $650.64
Total NCE $8,234 $8,573 $8,215 $7,548
M&O as % NCE 9.92% 12.67% 8.02% 7.49%
*Calculated from subtotals (in bold).
**Based on fewer responses than the total due to schools that combine some of these categories.

TABLE 2A: Maintenance & Operations Costs (Expressed in median dollars per square foot)

 
      Nat'l Median <1,000 students 1,000-3,499 students >3,500 students
Total Payroll $1.82 $1.51 $1.68 $2.50
  Custodial** $1.33 $0.90 $1.39 $1.73
  Maintenance** $0.34 $0.20 $0.26 $0.61
  Grounds** $0.03 $0.00 $0.04 $0.11
Outside Contract Labor $0.00 $0.00 $0.02 $0.05
Total Utilities $1.18 $1.18 $1.16 $1.33
  Gas** $0.22 $0.18 $0.22 $0.22
  Electricity** $0.65 $0.62 $0.63 $0.73
    Gas & Electricity (subtotal) $0.93 $0.92 $0.91 $1.05
  Other Fuels $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
  Other Utilities $0.15 $0.15 $0.12 $0.21
  Trash Collection/Disposal $0.04 $0.03 $0.04 $0.04
Total Equipment & Supplies $0.30 $0.34 $0.29 $0.25
  Custodial/Maint. Equip. & Supplies** $0.23 $0.28 $0.23 $0.16
  Grounds Equip. & Supplies** $0.04 $0.03 $0.04 $0.04
Other $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Total M&O Budget* $3.30 $3.03 $3.15 $4.13
Total NCE $44.80 $40.96 $42.66 $58.10
*Calculated from subtotals (in bold).
**Based on fewer responses than the total due to schools that combine some of these categories
.

Personnel breakouts

Average number of full-time custodial, maintenance and grounds personnel at school districts:

  Nat'l Mean <1,000 students 1,000-3,499 students >3,500 students
Custodial 24 4 16 88
Maintenance 7 1 3 27
Grounds 1 0 1 5

Salary data

Median salary for custodial, maintenance and grounds personnel at school districts:

  Nat'l Median <1,000 students 1,000-3,499 students >3,500 students
Custodial $24,599 $23,088 $25,972 $28,417
Maintenance $31,860 $26,400 $32,450 $35,910
Grounds $24,725 $21,896 $23,254 $34,500

TABLE 2B: Maintenance & Operations Costs (Expressed in mean dollars per square foot)

 
      Nat'l Mean <1,000 students 1,000-3,499 students >3,500 students
Total Payroll $2.33 $2.25 $1.97 $2.85
  Custodial** $1.61 $1.55 $1.53 $1.68
  Maintenance** $0.48 $0.37 $0.41 $0.67
  Grounds** $0.12 $0.10 $0.09 $0.18
Outside Contract Labor $0.17 $0.10 $0.23 $0.18
Total Utilities $1.43 $1.64 $1.23 $1.41
  Gas** $0.28 $0.33 $0.24 $0.23
  Electricity** $0.79 $0.85 $0.86
    Gas & Electricity (subtotal) $1.08 $1.22 $0.94 $1.09
  Other Fuels $0.08 $0.07 $0.10 $0.06  
  Other Utilities $0.20 $0.24 $0.14 $0.25
  Trash Collection/Disposal $0.05 $0.07 $0.04 $0.06
Total Equipment & Supplies $0.46 $0.61 $0.43 $0.30
  Custodial/Maint. Equip. & Supplies** $0.35 $0.47 $0.36 $0.19
  Grounds Equip. & Supplies** $0.07 $0.06 $0.07 $0.08
Other $0.09 $0.11 $0.07 $0.09
Total M&O Budget* $4.48 $4.71 $3.93 $4.83
Total NCE $51.59 $51.41 $46.59 $56.55
*Calculated from subtotals (in bold).
**Based on fewer responses than the total due to schools that combine some of these categories
.

Square feet maintained

Median amount of square feet (SF) and acreage maintained at school districts:

  Nat'l Median <1,000 students 1,000-3,499 students >3,500 students
SF maintained per full-time custodial worker 24,167 29,959 24,900 20,000
SF maintained per full-time maintenance worker 95,120 74,898 116,660 92,500
Acres maintained per full-time grounds worker 36 18 60 60
SF of building maintained per student 169.85 197.67 183.63 140.03
SF maintained per building 52,500 23,014 62,500 57,781

Agron is editor-in-chief of AS&U.

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